Every person over the age of eighteen should have a healthcare power of attorney. A “healthcare” or “medical” power of attorney allows you to choose another individual, your “agent”, to make medical decisions for you. Your physician will always ask you, as the patient, for your decision about any medical procedure so long as you are capable of communicating. Once your physician determines that you cannot make the decision yourself, your agent will take over making such decisions for you. The healthcare power of attorney covers all medical treatments from non-life threatening procedures to the withdrawal of medical services if you have a terminal condition. A living will was a similar document, but it designated only your attending physician to make a decision about withdrawing all medical treatment.
In addition to designating an agent, you can choose to authorize your agent to terminate health care if you have an irreversible condition which will result in your death in a short period of time. This is a personal decision and you can add specific directions on what the agent should consider in consultation with your doctor. You also can decide whether to donate any organs and, if you do, whether your donated organs should be used for transplant, therapy, research or education.
Obtaining a healthcare power of attorney is simple and inexpensive. Consider putting one in place. Without one, the Probate Court may need to step in if you become unable to make medical decisions.
For more information or if you have questions contact our Trusts and Estates Group, Darcie P.L. Beaudin, Bryan M. Dench, or Jill A. Checkoway