Medical Power of Attorney
A Medical Power of Attorney (POA) is a form of Durable POA that allows you to appoint an individual (often known as your agent or Attorney-in-Fact) to make important, sometimes life or death medical decisions for you if you cannot.
This differs greatly from a General Power of Attorney which is more commonly used by the public and can only appoint an agent to manage your financial assets. Instead, this type of medical-legal document can be put in place to provide for your healthcare necessities in the event of incapacitation.
To explain everything a Medical Power of Attorney can do, this article looks at the key information you should know before activating this legal instrument. It explains:
- Who would normally need this kind of document
- How it can be created and authorized
- When it can or cannot be used
Who Needs Medical Power of Attorney?
There are numerous situations when appointing an agent for your healthcare needs may offer you peace of mind. This permits you (known as the principal on the document) to provide instructions to an appointed representative who can consent for you if you can’t.
For instance, you may consider getting a Medical Power of Attorney if you are:
- Reaching advanced age
- Facing a serious medical procedure
- Experiencing protracted ill-health
- Planning for end-of-life care
How to Get Medical Power of Attorney
The process of getting a Medical Power of Attorney is quite similar to other POAs. You can either complete a Healthcare POA form yourself or you can seek out an Attorney at Law to help you draft the document.
It is possible to find free blank Medical Power of Attorney forms both online and or from your healthcare provider. These will give you all you need to name and authorize an agent to act on your behalf for your medical needs.
As you are granting such far-reaching powers, your Attorney-in-Fact needs to be carefully chosen. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a member of your family but it should always be someone you trust.
You should also speak at length with your prospective agent to be sure that they consent to the responsibility you’re giving them. Additionally, you must give a very clear picture of what your wishes are regarding your future medical treatment.
When you are creating your form be very careful to consider when you want to empower the agent to act. You can also set a triggering event, such as when a doctor deems you unable to give consent for yourself or a start date for their authority.
Once your form is completed, it will then need to be signed and notarized. After it has been finalized you should then file the form with your healthcare providers so that they have the document on record. This will speed up its use in the future.
Be aware, there are five states which require principals to provide detailed instructions on their Healthcare POA. Standard forms just appointing an agent will not work in these locations. These states are:
- New Hampshire
Medical Power of Attorney vs. Living Will
A Medical Power of Attorney may seem similar to a Living Will to some. However, there are some significant differences between the two legal documents. In fact, both can be used to complement each other.
Both these forms are known as Advanced Directive documents and allow you to carefully plan for advanced age, future illness or treatment following a major injury.
Living Wills, on one hand, detail your preferences for medical treatment. They might be used to approve emergency procedures that will ensure your recovery or to withhold further treatment if your situation is grave and unlikely to improve.
Medical Power of Attorneys, on the other hand, focuses more on the naming of a representative for a patient. It allows you, the principal, to name a person you trust to give medical consent to treatment when you cannot yourself. Normally, this will only come into effect when a doctor deems you incapable of being able to make your own decisions.
Medical Power of Attorney FAQs
Who Makes Medical Decisions if There is No Power of Attorney?
In the event that you are medically incapacitated and there is no Healthcare Power of Attorney document in force, the medical decision making will instead fall to your immediate family members in most states.
If you are married this will normally be your spouse. If you are not married it will instead be left up to your children and if you have no children your surviving parents or siblings.
Does a Spouse Automatically Have Medical Power of Attorney?
Your spouse automatically has the right to speak on your behalf if you are legally married and you become incapacitated. However, if you already have a pre-existing Medical Power of Attorney with another individual as agent this overrides your spouse’s authority.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Medical Power of Attorney?
A Medical Power of Attorney form can easily be completed online or at home using a standardized legal template. LawDistrict can help you easily through the process using our online form generator.
However, if your situation is more complicated and could benefit from extra-legal advice, it may be necessary to contact a law office before putting your document into action. They will be able to help you draft a document that takes into account any specific unique circumstances.
Is the Medical Power of Attorney Responsible for Bills?
If you appoint an agent they will not be responsible for your medical costs. These will still need to be paid by you, the Principal.
Normally, Medical Power of Attorney forms just names the agent as the person responsible for consenting to treatment if the principal cannot. They are not liable for the costs of the healthcare itself.