Power of Attorney for Health Decisions

What is a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care?

A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is a document that lets you name someone else to make decisions about your health care in case you are not able to make those decisions yourself. It gives that person (called your agent) instructions about the kinds of medical treatment you want.

Why should I consider having a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care?

You have a right to decide what kind of medical treatment you do and do not want. If you have specific wishes about your health care, a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care will ensure that those wishes are honored even if you are physically or mentally unable to tell your doctors what you want.
Even if you do not have specific wishes about your health care, a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care will ensure that someone you trust will make your medical decisions if you cannot do so.

What happens if I do not have a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care?

If you do not have a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and are physically or mentally unable to tell your doctors what you want, the following people, in order of priority, are legally authorized to make your health care decisions for you:

  • Your court-appointed guardian or conservator;
  • Your spouse or domestic partner;
  • Your adult child;
  • Your adult sibling;
  • A close friend; or
  • Your nearest living relative.

How does a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care work?

To make a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, you sign a paper saying that you want a certain person or persons (called your agent(s)) to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to make those decisions yourself.

What kinds of decisions can my agent make?

Your agent can make a wide range of health care decisions, including:
Whether to admit or discharge you from a hospital or nursing home;
Which treatments or medicines you do or do not want to receive; and
Who has access to your medical records.
Your agent can only make these decisions if you cannot do so yourself, and your agent must follow your wishes when making these decisions.

How will my agent know what I want?

You must say so in writing. When you make a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, you can:
State when you do or do not want your doctors to use machines to keep you alive;
State when you do or do not want to be hooked up to feeding tubes that provide you with food and water;
Tell your agent how you want your body disposed of when you die;
State whether you want to donate any organs; and
Name a person you want to be your legal guardian, if necessary.

Who should I appoint to be my agent?

You can choose anyone who is over 18 years of age and who is not your doctor or other health care provider. Your agent could be a family member, a friend, or a spiritual advisor. You should choose someone who you can trust and who will carry out your wishes.
You should discuss your wishes with your agent or agents. You should be sure the person you choose is willing to make decisions for you, even if doing so may be difficult or upsetting.

Can I appoint more than one agent?

Yes. The law allows you to appoint co-agents (two people who will serve together as equals) or successive agents (a second person who will serve in case the first agent is unable to do so).

However, if you appoint more than one agent, confusion or conflict may result. For example, your health care provider may be able to reach only one of the agents in the event of an emergency, or the agents might disagree about how to carry out your wishes.

It is wise to discuss the potential advantages and disadvantages (and ways to address the disadvantages) with a lawyer before giving Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Care to more than one person.

Is my agent required to act for me?

No. The law does not force the agent to act for you. However, if the agent chooses to act, he or she must follow your wishes.

Is my agent legally liable for what he or she does?

No. As long as the agent is acting in "good faith" and in accordance with your instructions, the law protects him or her from being sued for his or her actions.

Can I change my mind about my Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care?

Yes. If you change your mind, you should destroy the copy of the form that you have and tell anyone who might have a copy that you have changed your mind. You can then make a new Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care that reflects your current wishes.

You should be aware that if you get married after you have signed a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, it will be automatically revoked (not legally valid) unless you have named your new spouse as your agent.

How can I make sure that no one "pulls the plug" on me?

In your Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, you can say whether, and in what kinds of situations, you want your doctors to use machines or feeding tubes to keep you alive. Your agent must respect your wishes.

What is the difference between a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and a Living Will?

A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care allows you to appoint a person or persons to make health care decisions if you cannot act for yourself. A Living Will simply states your wish to have certain types of care withheld or withdrawn in specific situations, such as if you have a terminal condition or are in a permanent coma. A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is broader because it can apply to any condition you may have or treatment you may need.

What is the difference between a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and a Financial or General Power of Attorney?

The Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care authorizes someone to make decisions about your health care. A Financial or General Power of Attorney authorizes someone to act on your behalf in financial or other matters. You can have both a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and a Financial or General Power of Attorney, and you can name a different agent for the purposes of each document.

Your Portable Peace of Mind.

Medical Directives Advance Medical Directives Assigning an agent for my health decisions Power of Attorney for health decisions Health Power of Attorney Health Care Power of Attorney

Medical Directives Advance Medical Directives Assigning an agent for my health decisions Power of Attorney for health decisions Health Power of Attorney Health Care Power of Attorney

Medical Directives Advance Medical Directives Assigning an agent for my health decisions Power of Attorney for health decisions Health Power of Attorney Health Care Power of Attorney

Medical Directives Advance Medical Directives Assigning an agent for my health decisions Power of Attorney for health decisions Health Power of Attorney Health Care Power of Attorney

Medical Directives Advance Medical Directives Assigning an agent for my health decisions Power of Attorney for health decisions Health Power of Attorney Health Care Power of Attorney

Medical Directives Advance Medical Directives Assigning an agent for my health decisions Power of Attorney for health decisions Health Power of Attorney Health Care Power of Attorney


 

 

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