Healthcare Power of Attorney
A healthcare power of attorney is a person designated by someone to make medical decisions on their behalf if they're unable to make those decisions themselves.
Healthcare powers of attorney are legally authorized to act as their representative when it comes to healthcare decisions, such as medical treatments, procedures and medications.
The appointing person, known as the Principal, officially designates a healthcare power of attorney by completing a legal document known as a Healthcare Proxy, also known as a Medical Power of Attorney. These documents specify the agent's authority to make decisions on their behalf.
It's important that any chosen healthcare power of attorney is willing and capable of making decisions that align with their principal's values and preferences. They play a crucial role in ensuring that the principal's choices are respected and they receive the type of care they desire, even if they can't communicate at the time of a medical crisis.
Assigning a healthcare power of attorney is an important part of the Estate Planning process because they can ensure that the person's preferences are known and followed. They are legally binding documents and must be executed in accordance with state laws; as such, an Estate Attorney is typically hired to help draft them.
Key points about healthcare powers of attorney include:
Decision-Making Authority: Healthcare agents have the authority to make a wide range of healthcare decisions, including choices about medical treatments, surgeries, organ donation and end-of-life care, based on the principal's expressed wishes or, if those wishes are unknown, in the principal's best interests.
Legal Requirements: To be legally valid, the healthcare proxy or medical power of attorney documents must be signed by the principal in the presence of witnesses or Notarized, depending on state requirements.
Decision-Making Scope: The extent of the healthcare agent's decision-making authority can be customized in the document, and the principal can specify the types of medical decisions the agent can make.
Advocacy: The healthcare agent is expected to advocate for the principal's best interests and ensure that their healthcare preferences are respected. Open and clear communication between the principal and agent is vital.
Advance Care Planning: Appointing a healthcare agent is part of the broader process of an Advance Care Plan, which allows individuals to express their healthcare wishes and ensure that those wishes are honored if they are unable to communicate them later.