What is a Power of Attorney for Health Care?
Updated: May 18
While most of us recognize the terms Power of Attorney for Healthcare or Healthcare Proxy, we may not be as familiar with what exactly these legal documents do.
A Power of Attorney for Healthcare or a Healthcare proxy is a legal document used to name an agent and give them the authority to make medical decisions for you should you become unable to do so.
While you may think this sounds like a living will, there are some key differences in how they are used and the power they wield.
While a living will is a great first step in laying out your health care wishes, it's impossible to plan for every situation. A living will also only considers the knowledge you had at the time- if a new life-saving surgery or drug was developed you may not have made necessary changes to your wishes. A health care agent named in your POA is more intuitive than a piece of paper. Your agent can also make more specific decisions regarding your care, like which doctors or facilities to work with, how aggressively to treat illnesses, or whether or not to disconnect life support if you're in a coma.
Designating a health care agent is a big decision and one that shouldn't be taken lightly. Be sure to discuss your wishes with this person and make sure that they are comfortable carrying them out for you. While this is a big responsibility, it is one that can be extremely beneficial in sparing your family from arguments or even a court case about what decisions should be made and by who in regards to your care.
Advance care planning measures are one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family in times of medical crisis. Consulting an experienced attorney allows you to craft these documents in a way that addresses as many aspects of future medical care as possible.
Disclaimer: This blog post is made available for educational purposes only. It should not be relied upon for legal or tax advice and is not a substitute for legal research or a consultation with a qualified attorney.