A medical power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to select another individual to make health care decisions for you on your behalf if or when you become unable to make them yourself. The individual you choose is responsible for health care decisions and not financial decisions as with a regular power of attorney. The following information will help you understand the difference between medical power of attorney duties and regular power of attorney duties, as well as provide information for other questions you may have.
• What kind of health care decisions would be made under medical power of attorney? Under a medical power of attorney, the individual you select has the power to make certain decisions regarding your health. However, you do have the right to limit the certain types of decisions he or she can make. These decisions may include the ability to give, withhold or withdraw informed consent to any type of health care involving any and all medical and surgical treatments, psychiatric treatment, nursing home care, hospitalization, home health care treatment, organ donation and life support decisions.
• What is the difference between a medical power of attorney and a living will?
The difference between a medical power of attorney and a living will is that a living will is a document of decisions you made for yourself. It informs doctors and hospital staff that you do not wish to be kept alive on life support if there is chance of recovery. A medical power of attorney gives someone else the authority to make those types of decisions if you unable to make them yourself. The sole purpose of a medical power of attorney is to deal with situations in which you cannot predict. It is impossible to decide in advance what choice you would make in certain medical situations. The medical power of attorney allows you to choose an individual whom you trust to make these kinds of decisions.
• If I have a medical power of attorney, do I need a living will? Yes, you do. The individual you choose to be your medical power of attorney must follow any stipulations stated in your living will.
• When would I need a medical power of attorney? You would need a medical power of attorney only when you become unable to make health care decisions for yourself. For example, if you are become unconscious after being involved in a serious car accident and are in need of transplant of some kind, a medical power of attorney can consent to the operation.
• Does a medical power of attorney allow someone to make decisions for me if I am still able to make my own? No. The person you choose as your medical power of attorney has no authority unless you become unable to make your own health care decisions.
• Can I choose my doctor to be my medical power of attorney? No. Your doctor cannot serve as your medical power of attorney under the law.