Let’s back up a little bit and talk first about what a health care power of attorney is. A health care power of attorney ensures that your medical wishes are carried out even if you are unable to communicate those wishes. For example, if you are unconscious or incoherent and cannot consent to medical procedures, a healthcare power of attorney will handle those issues on your behalf.
What does a Healthcare Power of Attorney do?
A health care power of attorney document can do two things: explicitly state your medical wishes and appoint an individual to make health care decisions on your behalf. Those two things tend to work in tandem – the individual you appoint will use your explicit wishes as guidelines on other issues that may not be clearly spelled out in the document.
In a health care power of attorney, you can state things such as:
- Whether you want cardiac resuscitation
- Whether you want a feeding tube; and
- Whether you want mechanical respirator.
Who Should I Appoint as My Health Care Power of Attorney?
Deciding who to appoint as your health care power of attorney is a very personal decision. Many people choose family members such as spouses, parents or adult children. It’s important to talk with the person you want to appoint and ensure they agree to serve and understand their responsibilities as your health care power of attorney. If you are unsure of who to appoint, we can certainly help you make a list of your options and decide on the best person.
Who Needs a Health Care Power of Attorney?
To be frank, everyone over the age of 18 should have a health care power of attorney in place. Children under 18 do not need one because their parents act as their guardians; in fact, no one under the age of 18 can legally create one. However, as soon as you turn 18, the law does not designate someone to make decisions on your behalf. We never know what the future holds and when tragedy may strike – that’s why it’s important to have this document even if you are 100% healthy.
Without a health care power of attorney, there may be arguments and confusion among family members. The courts may have to intervene. And most importantly, there is no guarantee that your wishes will be carried out. Remember, if something unexpected were to happen, your loved ones will be experiencing a lot of emotions; having your wishes documented will at least take a little bit of stress off of your family members.
Want to learn more about why everyone needs a health care power of attorney and other documents we should all have? Check out the book Not Dead Yet (specifically Chapter 8) for information on health care powers of attorney, HIPPA authorizations and more.
If you’re ready to create your Health Care Power of Attorney, give us a call at (847) 770-6600.