Those Who Can Make Medical Treatment Decisions

Those Who Can Make Medical Treatment Decisions

In some states, there are no statutes regarding who may make medical treatment decisions for another person. Other states have detailed statutes on this subject. Of course, if you are mentally capable of understanding the options and expressing your wishes, then you always have the sole right to make the decision. However, if a patient is either mentally incapable of making the decision or is unable to communicate a decision, depending on state law, the following categories of people may be authorized to make decisions for the patient:

  • an agent pursuant to a health care power of attorney;
  • a court-appointed guardian who has been specifically authorized to make health care decisions;
  • the patient's spouse;
  • the patient's adult child, or a majority of his or her children;
  • a parent of the patient;
  • an adult brother or sister of the patient, or a majority of siblings;
  • an adult relative of the patient; or
  • a close friend of the patient.

You may want to review this list and think about who might end up making life-or-death medical decisions for you. If this is a cause for concern, a health care power of attorney—along with a living will—is a good solution.

  • Introduction to Power of Attorney
    A power of attorney is a document that lets you name someone to make decisions on your behalf. This appointment can take effect immediately if you become unable to make those decisions on your own. For example, if you become mentally incapacitated, or leave the country for a period of time, you...
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  • Definition of a Power of Attorney
    A power of attorney is a document you can use to appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf. The person you designate is called an "attorney-in-fact." The appointment can be effective immediately or can become effective only if you are unable to make decisions on...
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  • Durable Power of Attorney Permissions
    You can give your attorney-in-fact as many or as few powers as you want. A power of attorney can authorize your agent to do any or all of the following on your behalf:
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  • Legal Requirements for a Power of Attorney
    There are two essential elements of a valid power of attorney:
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  • Married Couples and Power of Attorney
    You should not assume your spouse will have total control of your finances if you become incapacitated. Although your spouse has some rights over property you own together, like joint bank accounts, he or she is restricted from doing certain things with that property. For example, generally both...
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  • Putting a Power of Attorney into Effect
    A durable power of attorney can be drafted so it becomes effective as soon as you sign it. Alternately, you can specify that it will not become effective unless a doctor certifies that you have become incapacitated. This is called a "springing" power of attorney. It...
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