What is Health Care Power of Attorney and Why Everyone Should Prepare One

Assuming an unexpected health crisis arises, individuals may find their ability to make decisions severely limited. A health care power of attorney allows individuals the option of designating another individual as their agent; having this document provides peace of mind that medical professionals adhere to your wishes in case you become incapacitated. Below is more information on why everyone should create one.

A health care power of attorney (also called durable power of attorney for healthcare) is a legal form which grants another individual decision-making authority in the event that one loses capacity and cannot communicate their preferences to their medical personnel themselves. A health care power of attorney can include instructions regarding organ donation, DNR orders and other end-of-life considerations.

Establishing a health care power of attorney is an easy and straightforward process. Most states provide forms on their websites which can be downloaded or printed off and filled out for use when forming the document. While legal assistance may not be needed to complete this step, an experienced attorney may help customize documents to meet individual needs.

While many choose a spouse or close friend as their agent, it is crucial that the right individual be chosen to handle this responsibility. Being a health care agent can be emotional work; therefore, the agent needs to have enough authority and autonomy in carrying out his or her role effectively. Furthermore, an effective health care power of attorney should be created so as to give their agent adequate authority.

Some states mandate notarization or witnessing of health care powers of attorney as an extra safeguard should the document be challenged in court, which also strengthens its enforceability; an experienced attorney would likely benefit greatly from helping draft such documents.

As multiple agents can be chosen, it is critical that those selected can agree on medical choices. Disagreements among designated agents could delay or block decision-making processes altogether and reduce access to appropriate care at the right time and place.

Maintaining and updating a health care power of attorney on an ongoing basis is crucial to its effectiveness and clarity of understanding for everyone involved. Discuss the document with both your named agent and any alternates so they know exactly their roles and responsibilities.

An end-of-life power of attorney is an invaluable document that can provide peace of mind to both family members and medical professionals when making end-of-life decisions. By using such a document, the future is assured for everyone.