Health Care Power of Attorney
A health care power of attorney allows you to name an agent (usually a family member or friend) to make medical decisions if you are unable to make them yourself. This document may be used during a short period of incapacity, or on a long-term basis if, for instance, you develop dementia or Alzheimer’s. A health care power of attorney is an important document, as it allows medical providers to know who they should be speaking to and from whom they should take direction.
A living will is a document that allows you to designate preferences in an end-of-life situation: specifically, the wish to be taken off life support if two doctors agree that you are brain dead, or that death is imminent and you will not recover with further treatment. Generally, a living will has language similar to the following:
If I am in a TERMINAL CONDITION and unable to make my own health care decisions, OR if I am in a PERMANENTLY UNCONSCIOUS STATE and there is no reasonable possibility that I will regain the capacity to make informed decisions, then I direct my physician to let me die naturally, providing me only with comfort care.
TERMINAL CONDITION means an irreversible, incurable, and untreatable condition caused by disease, illness, or injury from which, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty as determined in accordance with reasonable medical standards by a declarant’s attending physician and one other physician who has examined the declarant, both of the following apply: (1) there can be no recovery and (2) death is likely to occur within a relatively short time if life-sustaining treatment is not administered.
PERMANENTLY UNCONSCIOUS STATE means an irreversible condition in which the patient is permanently unaware of himself or herself and surroundings. At least two physicians must examine the patient and agree that the patient has totally lost higher brain function and is unable to suffer or feel pain.
You can sign both a health care power of attorney and a living will, or you can choose only to sign a health care power of attorney.