A person designated as Medical Power of Attorney may go by several titles including Designation of Health Care Surrogate, Health Care Power of Attorney, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, or Health Care Proxy. No matter the name, this influential legal document gives another person (the “health care agent”) the legal authority to make health care decisions for you when you (the “principal”) are unable to do so.

What Can a Medical Power of Attorney Do?

Choosing a Health Care Power of Attorney is an important role that is best assigned to someone you can count on. Whether that is a trusted friend, family member, or licensed professional, you need to know the person will make the best decisions for your medical treatment when you are unable to speak for yourself. 

Whoever you designate can communicate treatment preferences directly with your health care professionals. A Medical Power of Attorney or health care surrogate can make medical decisions, decide on care facilities, share your preferences for care, and advocate for your treatment wishes.

What are the Responsibilities and Limitations of a Medical Power of Attorney?

As Medical Power of Attorney, the person or company you choose for this role has the responsibility to follow your wishes for health care when you can not advocate for yourself. While these discussions can be uncomfortable, it is important that you share how you would like times of incapacitation and/or end-of-life medical situations to be handled. These may include decisions around life support, ending nutrition, or life-sustaining treatment options.

Unless specific restrictions are written into the document, the Medical Power of Attorney can make a wide range of medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable to. However, there are some restrictions that remain including:

  • Denying palliative care or medical interventions for comfort care
  • Hospitalization for mental health treatment
  • Agreeing to psychosurgery or convulsive therapies

Is There a Difference Between a Power of Attorney and a Medical Power of Attorney?

Yes. A general power of attorney is more often tied to financial decisions. A Medical Power of Attorney is an advance directive that specifically gives your designated agent the power to make health care decisions on your behalf.

Do I Need a Medical Power of Attorney?

While many people wait until later in life to consider a Medical Power of Attorney, we all know that life situations can take unexpected turns. Whether you are facing surgery, a terminal condition, or simply want to make sure that your wishes will be followed at any point that you become incapacitated, a Medical Power of Attorney is a wise decision. By taking this step, you will continue to make decisions for yourself as you are able, but also protect yourself should the unexpected occur.

The Law Office of Amy B. VanFossen specializes in Elder Law and has the experience and expertise necessary for these kinds of documents and decisions. Please contact us for a consultation, updating existing documents, or a review of your current estate plan.