A medical power of attorney is a legal instrument that allows an individual to appoint an agent to act on their behalf in regard to making healthcare decisions should that person become unable to make decisions for themselves. A medical power of attorney allows a patient to place a loved one or trusted friend in charge of making decisions rather than strangers who might not always have the best interests of the patient in mind.
A medical power of attorney can be as broad or limited in scope as the patient wishes, and it can be tailored to allow the agent to make any and all healthcare decisions for the individual, or only very specific decisions if certain situations occur. There is no set rule as to what the patient can and cannot allow their agent to do; it is ultimately up to the patient to grant whatever powers they wish to the person they choose to represent them should they become incapacitated.
It is important that all individuals take care of planning advance directives when it comes to their health care. Advance directives usually include either a living will or a medical power of attorney. While the living will allows the individual to direct certain actions they wish to occur if specific situations arise, they do not allow for the fluid decision making that can be necessary to prolong or even save an individual’s life when a time-critical decision is necessary.
Do not resuscitate (DNR) orders are also part of a person’s planning advance directives and can be used to prevent medical personnel from attempting to revive a patient who has stopped normal life functions. While the DNR and the living will can be part of a larger healthcare strategy, only the medical power of attorney allows for the flexibility to make decisions based upon the various scenarios that present themselves.
Unlike other types of power of attorney documents, the medical power of attorney is designed to only allow an individual to act on another's behalf should that person become incapacitated and only in regard to healthcare-related decisions. A medical power of attorney does not grant any other powers to the agent other than the narrow ability to make decisions should the patient become unable to do so on their own. This limit in power allows individuals to place friends and family in charge of one aspect of their affairs while leaving the control of other functions of their estate to individuals better equipped to deal with those complexities. It also provides that a trusted person will make the decisions according to how the patient would make them if they were able to.
The medical power of attorney should be carefully crafted to ensure that the patient has all the desired areas covered in terms of the powers they wish to grant their agent. It is vital that the principal thoroughly discusses their wishes with the agent prior to signing the power of attorney so that if the time should come for a decision to be made, it can be done according to the express desires of the principal.
The medical power of attorney can include any instructions regarding resuscitation or ventilation as well as any other assistance the principal may want or discourage a medical staff from performing.
There really is no limit to what the principal can dictate in their medical power of attorney, and as long as it is well thought out and concise, it will serve to ensure the wishes of the patient take precedent over those of someone else.
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