What Forms Are Needed to Make Family Medical Decisions?

By Mandi Titus

Unexpected medical conditions or accidents can happen to anyone at anytime. Because of this, it is important that anyone older than 18 be prepared by having the necessary forms that allow for a family member or friend to make medical decisions on behalf of the injured person. Without forms such as a Living Will, Medical Power of Attorney (POA) and Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order, an individual's personal preferences for treatment by a physician or health-care facility may be unknown and ignored.

Living Will

A Living Will, often confused with a Will and Testament, is a legal, written document that specifies the types of medical treatments and procedures that you do or do not want. These treatments or procedures oftentimes are related to life-sustaining measures and include artificial breathing with a ventilator, resuscitation efforts, and tube feeding or withholding nutrition. Living wills are also known as health-care declarations or health-care directives and are part of what is known as an Advance Directive, or collection of documents that outline end-of-life care management.

Medical Power of Attorney (POA)

Another document that is included in an Advance Directive is the Medical Power of Attorney (POA). Just as a Power of Attorney (POA) can make legal decisions and financial decisions for a person, a Medical POA can make medical decisions for a person should they become incapacitated. The Medical POA, also known as Designation of Health Care Surrogate, is a document in which you specify the name of a person or persons that you authorize to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are no longer able to make them yourself.

Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order

The Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order is a form you fill out to inform family, friends and health-care professionals that you do not want any cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if your heart stops. DNR orders are another form that is included in an Advance Directive, though having a DNR is not a requirement for having the other documents, such as a Living Will or Medical POW. In addition, you may choose also to have a DNR without having a Living Will or Medical POA.

Considerations

Discussing injury, illness and death is not easy for most people, but creating these documents and making your Medical POA aware of your wishes with regard to medical treatments and life sustaining procedures is vital to having your wishes followed in the event of a sudden illness, injury or death. Designating a Medical POA or Healthcare Surrogate that is aware of your wishes will improve the chances that they are followed. When choosing a person to make medical decisions for you, select someone who can remain calm and think clearly in stressful situations and remember that this person may not always be your closest relative or friend.