A Medical Power of Attorney, more commonly referred to as a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (DPOAHC) or Patient Advocate Designation, is a form of advanced directive. A DPOAHC allows you to appoint a person to make care, custody, medical and mental health care decisions on your behalf should you become unable to participate in making those decisions. While you are not required to have a DPOAHC, and no medical provider can refuse treatment if you do not have one, a medical power of attorney is an important part of your estate plan.
The purpose of DPOAHC is to give direction to others as to the type of medical treatment you should or should not receive and under what circumstances such treatment will be provided, withdrawn, or withheld. Your designee is called a Patient Advocate. The Patient Advocate’s authority is triggered only in the event that both a physician and a mental health practitioner have certified in writing that you are unable to participate in making your own medical or mental health decisions.
The authority that you give your designated Patient Advocate can be as narrow or as broad as you wish. In either case, the Patient Advocate is only authorized to make decisions that you yourself would be authorized make were you able to participate in such decisions. Some examples of decisions a Patient Advocate may make on your behalf are: hiring or terminating medical professionals and support staff; providing consent to admission to a hospital or treatment facility; consent to specific types of treatment; and consent for release of medical records. Your Patient may also consent to make anatomical gifts on your behalf.
Your DPOAHC should also address other such specifics as: what type of treatment you desire if you are in a coma; have pain that cannot be treated with medications; when it is appropriate to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment; and how to address conflicting opinions between medical personnel and family members.
Before your designated Patient Advocate can act, he or she must receive a copy of your DPOAHC and he or she must sign an Acceptance of Designation. There are other legal formalities that must be observed for a DPOAHC to be valid.
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