Health Care Power of Attorney
A health care power of attorney is an official document prepared for the situations in which you might not be able to make decisions for yourself. In such a case, it ensures that your wishes are carried out by your agent as stated by you in writing.
There are four main documents that you need to be informed about regarding your health and the correct way to deal with difficult health situations: durable power of attorney for health care, living will, do not resuscitate orders and anatomical gifts. It is also important to know what happens if you get in a situation where these documents are necessary, but have not been signed.
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
A durable power of attorney for health care is a document used to designate an agent with the right to make all the decisions about your health care, for all types of medical conditions, if you are in a situation where you are not able to make them yourself.
The difference between a durable power of attorney for health and a living will is that the first is much broader and the lather becomes useful only in a case of terminall illness, permanent unconsciousness, or other conditions based on state law and does not cover your wishes regarding life-prolonging procedures. A health care power of attorney is not limited to: terminal illness, a persistent vegetative states, lifeprolonging procedures, or some other situations narrowly defined by state law.
Still, you need to take into consideration that if you don’t have both documents, some issues may arise.
Healthcare Power of Attorney
Simply said, having a health care power of attorney drawn is saying you want and you trust a specific person to make the decisions regarding your health care in case you are unable to make them yourself. This person is considered a healthcare agent and choosing the righ person for this important task is a very sensitive matter that needs to be done with extreme care.
The person you are choosing will be given a great responsability and might one day be the one that needs to choose wheather the treatment recommended by your doctors is according to your personal values or religioues beliefs. It might one day have to decide wheather life support measures are in your best interest of your health or not.
Compared to a healthcare power of attorney which has few limitations, a living will is a legal document regarding decisions about your healthcare that only applies if:
- You are considered terminally ill
- You are permanently unconscious
- You are in another similar health condition as presented by the state law.
This means that in a situation where, for any reason, you are only temporary unconscious or unable to communicate and you are not in an end-stage condition, such as those mentioned above, you need a healthcare power of attorney because in these condition a living will is of no use to you.
You can have both a living will and a health care power of attorney. In some states the two documents are combined into one and might include other healthcare matters, such as body organs donation, apointment of a legal guardian, and designation of a primary physician and so on.
When drafting your healthcare power of attorney document, you can choose how broad or limited the type of decisions your agent can make in your name can be. In the situation where you have not prepared a living will and the healthcare power of attorney does not include specific desires, it is up to your designated person to make all the decisions in your name and figure out how you would like to proceed in that specific situation. In order to help your designated person, it is recommended to include all the healthcare decisions that are important to you in your healthcare power of attorney.