What Is a Health Care Power of Attorney?

By Kate Fogle
Who, vital decisions, you

Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of 7j.nl) (Jako Jellema

A health care power of attorney gives someone else the authority to make decisions for you about your medical treatment when you are unconscious or too sick to communicate your wishes.

Requirements

Each state sets its own requirements for a health care power of attorney. Most states require you to sign a written document and have it notarized.

Choosing an Agent

The person you choose to make decisions for you, called your agent, should be someone you trust and who knows you well. You should feel comfortable discussing your health care preferences with your agent and feel certain that the person will respect your wishes.

Content

The document should contain the name, address and Social Security number of your agent, along with a statement that you are appointing the person to act on your behalf if you are unable to make medical decisions. You can also include limitations, additional powers and the name of an alternative agent.

Living Will

A living will is a health care directive that explains your treatment preferences in specific situations. Most states allow you to include a living will in your health care power of attorney.

Tip

Most hospitals will give you a free form to use for your health care power of attorney.

About the Author

Kate Fogle, an attorney and former English teacher, is the communications director for a non-profit agency in Stockton, Calif. Prior to recent articles on eHow.com, her writing has been published in-house for professional purposes. Fogle is a graduate of UC Davis with a JD from UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall.

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