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What is a Medical Power of Attorney?

A medical power of attorney (or healthcare power of attorney) is a legal document that lets you give someone legal authority to make important decisions about your medical care. These decisions could be about treatment options, medication, surgery, end-of-life care, and more. The person you name in your POA to make these decisions is called your healthcare agent or proxy.

We never know when something unexpected could happen to us, like a sudden injury or illness. With a medical power of attorney, you’re creating peace of mind for yourself and your loved ones by choosing someone you trust to make important decisions for you in the event you’re unable to.

When creating a medical POA, most people choose to make it durable. Having a durable medical POA means your agent’s authority to act on your behalf continues if you’re incapacitated — meaning you’re unable to communicate your wishes. Your agent would be able to make medical decisions for you during a time you’re unable to speak for yourself. Many courts assume a medical POA is durable by default, but it’s best to be explicit when writing your document.

Depending on where you live, medical POAs might also be called:

  • Power of attorney for healthcare

  • Advance directive

  • Advance healthcare directive

  • Medical power of attorney directive


When does your Medical Power of Attorney take effect?
A durable medical POA takes effect as soon as you’re incapacitated. This could include if you:

  • Were under general anesthesia

  • Had an illness that left you unable to communicate, such as a stroke

  • Had an accident that left you in a coma or unconscious state

  • Suffered from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia that impacts your ability to make rational decisions


Why do you need a Medical Power of Attorney?
There are many reasons why it’s a good idea to create a medical POA before you need it. Here are the top reasons you may want to consider:


To create peace of mind.

If you ever become too ill or injured to direct your own care, your loved ones may have to step in and make decisions for you. If you don’t have a medical POA, this typically requires a court proceeding, which can take time and cost money. Your loved ones could also be left trying to guess what kind of care you want, causing stress during an already painful time. By appointing a trusted person to act as your healthcare agent before you actually need one, you can create peace of mind for yourself and your loved ones.


To prepare for a major medical procedure.

If you’re planning for a surgery, you may want to select a healthcare agent to make medical decisions for you since you can’t give consent while under anesthesia. If you like, you can revoke the power of attorney after you recover.


To address concerns after being diagnosed with a degenerative disease.

Alzheimer’s, cancer, ALS, and Huntington’s disease are all conditions that will eventually make it impossible for you to understand or consent to medical treatment. After diagnosis, you may want to create a medical power of attorney while you’re still feeling well and can communicate your wishes for your care.


What can your healthcare agent do?
Your healthcare agent is legally required to act in your best interests. How much authority they have over your medical care is up to you. You could write your POA in a way that allows your healthcare agent to make any decision about your medical care. Or, you can establish limitations and timeframes on your agent’s power.

If you so choose, you can allow your healthcare agent to decide:

  • What medical care you receive, including surgery, medical treatments, medications, and home healthcare

  • The facilities where you receive your medical care

  • The doctors and other providers who oversee your medical care

  • Where you live, including assisted living, nursing homes, or residential long-term care

  • Who cares for your everyday needs, such as eating and bathing

Disclaimer: This webpage is for informational and public service purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Source: FreeWill Co. 

Can THE HAYNES CO. prepare my Medical Power of Attorney?

Yes. THE HAYNES CO. can prepare your Medical Power of Attorney. 

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