Why You Need a Medical Power of Attorney

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Estate planning isn’t something that is fun to talk about. No one wants to think about death or what will happen after they are gone. But it is necessary to talk about it, and essential to make plans by doing your estate planning. And one of the most important documents when estate planning is a medical power of attorney. 

What is a Medical Power of Attorney?

A Medical Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you to appoint a person to make healthcare decisions for you, should you become unable to make them yourself. The person you select will have the power to make decisions about your healthcare, so it will need to be someone you fully trust who will make decisions you would want.

What Kind of Healthcare Decisions?

You may be wondering what kinds of healthcare decisions we are talking about. You can limit your representative to make only specific choices in your medical power of attorney. Your representative will make any healthcare-related decisions that you allow. 

Your representative could make decisions about numerous things, including giving, withholding, or withdrawing consent to types of healthcare such as medical and surgical treatments. Your representative will also make decisions on psychiatric treatment, hospitalization, home health care, nursing care, and organ donation. They could even be responsible for the decision to take you off life support or not. 

How is a Medical Power of Attorney Different from a Living Will?

A medical power of attorney may sound similar to a living will, but it is not the same. While a living will is a statement of decisions you make for yourself, medical power of attorney gives someone else the ability to make the decisions for you. 

You create a living will to tell the doctor that you do not want to be kept alive by machines if you have no hope of getting better.

A medical power of attorney is for situations that you cannot predict. If you don’t know the situation, it is impossible to make the decisions in advance, which is why appointing someone as your medical power of attorney is so essential. 

When Might You Need a Medical Power of Attorney?

A medical power of attorney works when you become unable to make healthcare decisions for yourself> Many unexpected events can occur where a medical power of attorney will be beneficial. 

If you are in a car accident and unconscious, you might need a blood transfusion. Someone will need to approve it. If you are under anesthesia and need a more expensive procedure than you agreed to, you will need someone to tell the doctor yes or no. Or, even if you become mentally incompetent as a result of Alzheimer’s Disease or another form of dementia, you may need medical treatment. Someone needs the authority to make those decisions for you. 

The Determination That You Can’t Make Decisions 

You may be wondering who makes the decision when you cannot make healthcare decisions for yourself. A doctor or psychologist will make this determination. A doctor will commonly say that you lack the capacity needed to make your own healthcare decisions. They might also say that you are incapacitated. If you are conscious, they will tell you their decision. They will notify you that you are incapacitated and your medical power of attorney representative will be making decisions regarding your healthcare and treatment. 

The person you choose as your medical power of attorney will have no control over your healthcare decisions if you can still make your own decisions.

How Can I Be Sure That My Representative Will Make the Decisions I Want?

If you are worried about your representative’s decisions on your behalf, there are some things you can do. First, you want to be sure that you choose the right person. Think carefully about who you want to be making these decisions for you when the time comes.  A spouse, sibling, or child are good places to start.

After you have chosen your representative, make sure to talk to them. Tell them your wishes, tell them what choices you would make. Talk to them about different situations and go through hypothetical situations. Your representative also needs to be aware of your religious and moral beliefs. Tell them the things you want and also the things you don’t want. 

After you have talked to your representative, be sure to write down what you talked about. It’s always helpful to have your wishes written down. Be as specific as you can so that your representative will be as prepared as possible when the time comes. 

As stated above, no one likes to talk about what will happen when our time comes or when we can’t make our own decisions, but it’s always best to prepare. It will take some of the stress off of your loved ones to have many big decisions already made.