Advance Health Care Directives: Health Care Power of Attorney
A health care power of attorney is a document appointing someone to act as your agent related to all of your health care needs. You can compare this with a general power of attorney in that you are allowing someone else to make decisions for you, but in this case, the power is specifically related to your health care. Your agent will have the power to make medical decisions on your behalf, have access to your confidential medical records and will be able to speak directly with your medical providers. Please take special note of how expansive this power is. Because your agent will have this much power and contact with your health care providers you must choose someone you trust absolutely and someone who has an intimate knowledge of how you would make your own medical decisions. This document is meant to be overarching and cover all of your medical needs so it doesn’t provide direction in every possible medical situation or even what type of treatment you want to receive in end of life scenarios. If you do not have a living will, you would leave those instructions with your agent to make those decisions on your behalf.
But what if you are healthy and conscious? In that case you still make all of your own medical decisions without input from your agent. It is only when you are unconscious or mentally infirm and cannot make those decisions for yourself that this document is effective.
These documents should not be very expensive for you to prepare. In many states this document is a statutory form prepared by your state’s legislature and is free for you to copy from the state statutes. Doctors offices and hospitals often have these forms readily available – particularly if you are scheduled for an upcoming surgery. But, you may still be better off consulting with a lawyer regarding this document to make sure you fully understand the form and the decisions you are making and even more so to ensure that you have executed the form properly. Just like with a will, an improperly executed form will be of no value to you.