A Medical Powers of Attorney – often also called a health care power of attorney – give the agent legal powers to make specific healthcare decisions on behalf of the grantor in the event that the grantor is sick, dying, or medically incapacitated. These documents are, by their nature, “durable” – meaning that the agent, who is also sometimes called the medical proxy, attorney-in-fact, or healthcare surrogate, can make decisions for the grantor when the grantor is incapacitated. Without the “durable” aspect of the document, the agent would lose these legal responsibilities when the grantor became incapacitated.
Healthcare power of attorney documents allow the grantor to specify what kind of medical treatment they wish to receive if they should become incapacitated – for example, the grantor may request that they not be resuscitated, or they may request full life support. Sometimes, the agent is given legal power to make end-of-life decisions for the grantor, but the healthcare power of attorney documents can also clearly specify that the agent may not make these decisions.
Many people chose one agent to act as both their financial and healthcare power of attorney agents, but these two documents are separate. A healthcare power of attorney document does not inherently give the agent the right to make financial decisions or run the grantor’s business. Legally, you are able to name two agents to perform these tasks separately, if you believe different people will manage different affairs better.
Healthcare Power of Attorney vs. Living Will
While one may confuse these directives initially, and while there are some similarities between the documents, they do serve different purposes. Living wills and healthcare POAs allow the grantor to choose someone to make medical decisions on their behalf should the grantor becomes incapacitated. In both documents, the grantor must be of sound mind when signing the document, to prevent coercion.
However, living wills concern deathbed issues only. If the grantor is likely to recover, even if they are in a coma, living will documents do not apply. Healthcare power of attorney documents, on the other hand, can apply while the grantor is undergoing medical treatment – in the case of medical power of attorney, the agent makes decisions for the grantor that the grantor specified in the documents, and no further.
Living wills specify the type of end of life treatment you wish to receive. Although healthcare proxies can make these decisions insofar as they understand your wishes, you may specify in your healthcare power of attorney documents that they cannot make these kinds of medical decisions for you, and should instead refer to your living will of you are at the end of your life. Living will provisions can be included in healthcare power of attorney documents, but these two documents are legally separate. You can also chose a secondary healthcare agent, if your primary agent and/or living will executor find they are unable to make these tough decisions for you.
As long as you are of sound mind, you may also revoke or change your healthcare power of attorney documents at any time. If there is a possibility that the changes may not be respected by the original agent, you may forward a copy to an attorney or family members to make sure your wishes are followed.
Free State Specific Medical Power of Attorney Forms