Health Care Power of Attorney

Health Care Power of Attorney

The health care power of attorney has been briefly discussed throughout this book. It is a document in which you designate someone to be your representative in the event you are unable to make or communicate decisions about all aspects of your health care. In the most basic form, a health care power of attorney merely says, "I want this person to make decisions about my health care if I am unable to do so."

Commonly, people choose to have a separate living will to give your agent some guidance, or incorporate living will provisions in the health care power of attorney. A health care power of attorney can be as broad as possible, or it can limit the type of decisions the person can make. If you do not have a living will, or do not make any type of statements in your health care power of attorney about your desires, it will be up to the person you designate to determine what you would want in a certain situation. It can be a great help to your agent if you also have a living will or living will provisions in the power of attorney to provide some guidance as to what you would like.

State laws allow you to designate someone to carry out your wishes or to make all health care decisions on your behalf. Having a health care power of attorney is as valuable as a living will. Of course, keep in mind that you should only use a health care power of attorney if there is someone whom you trust to make health care decisions on your behalf.

  • Introduction to Living Wills
    Modern life support systems can keep an individual's body alive for years, even if that person has no brain activity or is in constant pain. As competent adults, we have a constitutional right to make decisions about whether or not we want life support to continue when death is imminent or when a...
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  • Definition of a Living Will
    A living will is a document that outlines specific medical instructions to be applied if you are alive but are unable to communicate your wishes for yourself. Unlike last wills, they have nothing to do with property division after your death. Rather, they state that you do (or do not) want...
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  • Healthcare Power of Attorney
    A healthcare agent is a person whom you are trusting to make medical decisions on your behalf if you can't make them for yourself. Choosing your agent is an important decision, and you should think carefully about who you want to assume this responsibility. This person may one day be deciding...
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  • Revoking or Canceling a Living Will
    A living will can be canceled or revoked at any time. The revocation is effective when you (or someone else who witnessed your revocation) communicate it to your attending physician or healthcare provider. You can also cancel your living will by destroying it or by indicating, in writing, that it...
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  • Witnesses to a Living Will
    Because of the gravity of the decisions associated with a living will and the potential severity of the results, a living will must be witnessed by individuals who can swear that the document reflects the maker's wishes. These witnesses must be independent, and can't have an interest in receiving...
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  • Pregnancy and Living Wills
    Most state laws will not let you (or someone acting on your behalf) refuse life-extending medical procedures if you are pregnant. In such cases, your living will can be disregarded, unless there is no chance the fetus will survive.    
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