What’s the role of a health care power of attorney?

It is easier to plan our day than to make decisions around how the end of our lives will be spent. On one level, it is common to consider estate planning from the viewpoint of passing away. However, a living will that name a personal representative as power of attorney can help to make healthcare decisions if faced with long-term and end-of-life care. Unlike other types of wills, a living will decide what happens to us while alive yet unable to make decisions on our own.

The power of attorney for healthcare is a person who has been chosen to make medical decisions on your behalf. Healthcare directives, such as do not resuscitate (DNR) orders, can never be contradicted by a power of attorney.

6 rights of a medical power of attorney

There are certain things that a medical power of attorney can do. The following are seven rights that are typically given to power of attorneys:

  • Consent or deny medical treatment: The medical POA makes these decisions as long as they are in harmony with the patient’s living will.
  • Access to medical records: Medical privacy is protected and the medical POA can grant or deny requests to medical records.
  • Visitation: Who is allowed to visit is controlled by the person holding the patient’s medical power of attorney.
  • Choosing facilities: Which medical facilities are used, including nursing homes, are decided by the power of attorney.
  • Selecting medical personnel: Which doctors, physicians, specialists and therapists see the patient can be chosen by the medical POA.
  • Deciding on organ donation: Decisions about end-of-life events, such as organ donation, can be made by the POA unless the deceased left specific instructions.

As previously mentioned, the power of attorney can not make decisions that are contrary to a living will or medical directive. They can, however, act as the patient’s representative in court if legal action is necessary over the patient’s care.

Be sure to take a comprehensive approach to your estate planning that includes long-term care and end-of-life medical decisions. This includes making sure that you have a power of attorney in place.

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