Why Now is the Time to Create a Medical Power of Attorney
Many people throughout the U.S. and around the world are concerned about contracting the COVID-19 coronavirus. People are concerned about what will happen to them and their families if they need to go into intensive care at a hospital. We know that some COVID-19 patients require long stays in the hospital, some longer than 100 days.
Many hospitals are not allowing their patients to have visitors in an attempt to limit the spread of the disease. If you or your loved one need to be placed on a ventilator, you will not be able to make your medical wishes known. By creating a medical power of attorney document, you can appoint a healthcare agent who can make decisions for you if you become incapacitated and unable to communicate your wishes.
If you do not already have a medical power of attorney document in place, now is the best time to get one. A medical power of attorney document will give your doctors and your family the gift of knowing your wishes and making quick, informed decisions.
Medical Power of Attorney Documents are Essential for Emergencies
Powers of attorney are a basic, yet important part of emergency planning. They allow you to appoint an agent who will act as your representative for making medical decisions, should you become incapacitated and unable to do so. You can customize your medical power of attorney to meet your needs and goals.
Many of us assume that we will be able to create a power of attorney document later when we really need it. Yet, the best time to create a medical power of attorney is before an emergency situation happens. If you become extremely ill with COVID-19 or with any other serious medical condition, it could be too late to create your medical power of attorney.
Creating a Medical Power of Attorney
Medical powers of attorney have different names, depending on the state you are in. They are also called healthcare powers of attorney, advance directives, or healthcare proxies. All of these documents have one thing in common, however. They allow a person you appoint as your agent to make your healthcare decisions if you become unable to make them yourself.
As the principal, or person who is creating the medical power of attorney, you have the power to tailor your document to your individual needs and goals. You will be able to make your wishes known by writing in your specific responses to certain emergency situations. Your agent will be able to refer to your document to aid them in making decisions for you that align with your wishes.
What Types of Decisions can the Healthcare Agent Make?
Typically, healthcare agents will make decisions that concern end-of-life care, or emergency medical care. Healthcare agents or proxies only have the authority to make decisions when the principal has become incapacitated, which usually happens due to a serious disease, accident, or injury.
For example, if you would like to be kept alive by artificial means, you can state which types of interventions you would like your healthcare proxy to use. For example, many principals state whether or not they would like to pass away in their homes, or in a hospital or assisted living facility. The following are other types of medical issues that may require a decision from a healthcare agent:
- Nursing home treatment/care
- Surgical treatments
- HomeStay Care
- Organ Donation
- Medical Treatment
Medical Powers of Attorney vs. Durable Powers of Attorney
Medical powers of attorney are different from durable powers of attorney. Medical powers of attorney are limited to medical decisions, and they are further limited to certain types of medical decisions. As long as you are still in the capacity and ability to make your own decisions, your appointed agent will not be able to make any decisions for you. Medical powers of attorney give specific legal power to an appointed agent only for certain cases.
On the other hand, durable powers of attorney are much broader. A durable power of attorney allows your appointed agent to make business and financial decisions. The powers begin when the parties decide they begin. In many cases, a durable power of attorney only begins when you as the principal become incapacitated.
In some cases, people, especially husbands and wives, may decide to make their durable power of attorney effective immediately. The powers of a durable power of attorney end when you revoke them, or when you pass away. You can change your agent or revoke the durable power of attorney as long as you still have capacity at the time.
Choosing Your Healthcare Agent
Sometimes, it is easy to choose a healthcare agent. Many people choose to select their spouses as their durable power of attorney. In other cases, deciding whom to make your healthcare agent is more difficult. The most important factor when choosing a medical power of attorney is that you feel confident discussing your medical wishes with that person.
You should also choose someone whom you trust to follow through with making sure your wishes are respected. You will need to choose a person who is assertive enough to make a difficult decision when necessary, and who will make sure doctors follow through with your wishes.
In many cases, it is best to choose a medical power of attorney who lives nearby. If you undergo a long hospital stay, your agent will find it difficult to continue traveling to your location. Also, keep in mind that there are some restrictions on whom you can choose to be your power of attorney. If the state laws in your location ban your choice of an agent, or if your agent cannot fulfill the duties of an agent, it is wise to have a backup plan.
Contact Our Experienced Estate Planning Lawyers Today
There is no time like the present to create your medical power of attorney. The Law Office of Daniel Hunt is here to help. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.
Daniel Hunt is lead attorney and owner at Law Offices of Daniel Hunt. He is also a California State Bar Certified Legal Specialist in Estate Planning, Trusts & Probate Law.