Durable Power of Attorney for Health

By Hal Bartle

Powers of attorney are important personal planning documents. The purpose of a durable power of attorney for health care is to ensure that a person will have decisions made on his behalf, the way he would prefer, when he is not able to make the decisions. This type of power of attorney is not just for end-of-life situations, but any time a person is not able to make important medical decisions because he is incompetent and unable to communicate.

Significance

A power of attorney is a legal document that allows one person to act for another person. A durable power of attorney is a type of power attorney will not become active until the person granting the authority becomes unable to make decisions for himself or becomes incompetent. A durable power of attorney for health, or a durable health care power of attorney, allows for a person to appoint an agent, also known as a health care representative, to make health care decisions for any time when the person becomes unable to manage his health care decisions. Generally, a person must be at least 18 years old and must be able to know what the durable health care power of attorney is, what directives are in the power of attorney, and what it does, in order to create one.

Function

A durable health care power of attorney springs into effect when a doctor declares the patient to be incompetent or incapable to make decisions. The test that a doctor uses to determine if a person is incompetent is whether the patient understands the nature of the health care choice to be made and whether the patient can communicate, in any way, what decision he would make.

Features

A durable health care power of attorney can contain many different directives and can appoint broad or restrictive powers to the patient's agent, depending on the patient's preference. A durable power of attorney for health care can state a patient's preferences for heroic measures and treatments that prolong life; it can also require certain other measures for a life-ending decision is to be made, such as requiring two or more doctors to concur on a prognosis. The features of a durable health care power of attorney are very broad and fluid, and the power of attorney can be specifically tailored to an individual's needs.

Effects

The effect of a durable health care power of attorney is to allow someone to make important health care decisions for another person. The doctors must listen to the patient's representative and no one else. The health care representative may not make decisions that he believes are best, but rather must make the decisions that he believes the patient would make if the patient were competent to make those decisions. The durable health care power of attorney will remain in effect until it is revoked by the patient, the patient dies, a judge revokes the health care representative's power, or a judge invalidates the document as a whole.

Considerations

A durable health care power of attorney is a very important document because it concerns granting another person decision-making abilities. The powers that are granted to a health care representative are not to be taken lightly, and the representative chosen should be trusted by the person. Another consideration for someone contemplating creating a durable power of attorney for health care is whether he should consider a second health care representative in case the original choice does not wish to fulfill the duties or dies before the power of attorney coming into effect.

About the Author

Hal Bartle has been writing professionally since 2009. He has been published on various websites. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Saint Joseph's University and a Juris Doctor from Duquesne University School of Law.

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