John recently had a head-on collision with a truck when he was driving back home late at night. Always an energetic person ready to help everyone, he would not have opted for a life support system.
For people like John who don’t want to breathe artificially or want to avoid certain healthcare procedures, medical power of attorney respects their wishes.
Let’s dive into what a medical power of attorney is, why you should consider getting it, and how to get one.
What Is Medical Power of Attorney
When an agent is appointed to make medical decisions on behalf of another person within a legal framework, the formal document is called a medical power of attorney.
Why Do You Need a Medical Power of Attorney?
If you are physically or mentally incapacitated, medical power of attorney allows your chosen agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.
Furthermore, with this legal document, you can ensure that medical professionals follow your preferences such as:
- Withdrawing treatments
- Treatments that you want to avoid
- Rehabilitation or nursing home options
- Life support
- Psychiatric counseling
A medical power of attorney lets you follow your medical and healthcare preferences through an agent if you are unable to do so yourself.
How to Get a Medical Power of Attorney
As this is a legal procedure, you should follow the laws applicable in your state when it comes to getting a medical power of attorney.
There are two parts to it: prepping and drawing.
Prepping to Get a Medical Power of Attorney
In the preparation stage, you need to:
1. Decide if you need a medical power of attorney
If you think at some point you may become seriously ill or injured, you can think about getting a medical power of attorney who will direct your healthcare according to your express wishes.
Your agent will have the right to hire and fire healthcare personnel, read your medical records, visit you in the hospital, and make decisions that are not specified in your living will. They can even appear in court to ensure your medical wishes are fulfilled.
You can opt for a living will that specifies how you want to be treated medically. This document doesn’t cover as much medical and healthcare ground as does the medical power of attorney.
With a POLST or Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment, you get to specify to medical professionals how you want to be treated under certain circumstances.
2. Draw a living will
In a living well, you can cover points such as:
- If you want to be kept alive artificially;
- If a feeding tube should be used;
- If you should be resuscitated in the event of a full cardiopulmonary arrest.
3. Fill the POLST form
Check if a POLST form applies in your state. Ask for a doctor’s help when you fill it out to specify if you want:
- Artificial feeding
- Medical intervention
Keep one copy of the form with yourself always and send another one to the POLST registry office in your state.
4. Know the various types of power of attorney
Besides medical power of attorney, there is a financial power of attorney who makes money-related decisions for you. There is also power of attorney related to real estate. Make sure you know the differences.
The medical power of attorney documents are the “springing” type – they become effective when the agent and a medical professional mutually decide that you are not capable of deciding the medical treatment for yourself.
5. Select your agent
Follow the below criteria before you lock your agent. The agent should:
- Be someone whose judgment you trust.
- Live near you so they can visit you in hospital.
- Be able to stand firmly by their decision even when your family members may disagree.
- Not be a medical professional or a hospital employee as it’s not legally permitted.
6. Chat with probable agents
Once you have a shortlist of who could be the agent of your medical power of attorney, have a chat with them. Ask them if they would be okay with this role.
7. Consult your lawyer
Talk to your lawyer who will help you walk through various health and medical conditions. This will give you a clearer and bigger picture so that you can make a better decision.
The lawyer can help you draft a living will and a medical power of attorney.
Drawing a Medical Power of Attorney
In the next phase, you must do the following:
1. Look for forms
There are medical power of attorney forms available online. Check the Department of Human Services website in your state for a template. Or, fill out a customized one and consult your lawyer.
2. Fill in the relevant forms
Fill in the details of yourself and your agent in the desired form. Remember to select only one agent.
Pay close attention to the medical instructions part and think before you fill in these parts. This involves making critical decisions like opting out from surgeries, resuscitation, particular medicines, etc.
3. Attestation by witnesses
Sign the form in front of witnesses who will verify that you did so in the right state of mind. Some states don’t allow your attending doctor to sign as a witness. Others don’t permit people to serve as a witness who will benefit financially in the event of your death.
Get the signed form notarized to make it legal. Remember to carry your ID before you head over to the notary office.
Make copies of your medical power of attorney and distribute them among:
- Your primary health caregiver or doctor.
- Your specialist doctor.
- Your agent.
- Your family and friends.
- Your lawyer.
- The admin of your apartment, hospital, and clinic.
6. Update information
In case your agent dies or doesn’t want to be your agent anymore, either fill in a new form or add an addendum to the current one. Make sure to have the updated part signed in front of witnesses and notarized.
Put your medical power of attorney in a safe place at home. If you live in an area that experiences high humidity or rains, you may want to laminate the form to prevent it from getting wet.
Accidents sometimes make life-altering turns in our lives. We can’t predict or avoid them.
What we can do is get a medical power of attorney. That way, our agent knows how we want to be treated medically even if we don’t have the faculties to make the decision ourselves.