Many states, including New Hampshire, have statutes regarding a durable power of attorney for health care decisions. This document gives other parties, called agents, the power to make medical decisions for mentally incapacitated individuals. In New Hampshire, the appointment of such an agent is generally part of a longer document called an advance health care directive. An advance health care directive includes a living will that addresses specific, end-of-life issues.
Choosing an Agent
New Hampshire law permits a health care agent to make broad medical decisions for you. Your agent must be a competent adult and should feel comfortable with her duties. She should know personal factors that may affect your medical wishes, such as your religion, family relationships and desired quality of life. You should consider where she lives and whether she could be available for quick, emergency decisions.
New Hampshire law requires an agent to have written instructions before refusing you artificial feeding or hydration. Such directions should be part of the durable power health care document itself. You may also grant your agent the power to authorize a "do not resuscitate" order, known as a DNR. A DNR bars any attempts for revival if you quit breathing or your heart stops. You may also give your agent personal instructions, such as your desire to use a certain doctor or hospital.
Signing and Witnessing
You need two people to witness your signing of the New Hampshire durable power of attorney for health care. Your spouse, heirs, agent, attending doctor, nurse practitioner or employees of your doctor may not serve as witnesses. If you sign the document before a notary public or justice of the peace, you do not need other witnesses. A person making a health care appointment must be competent and sign the document freely and willingly.
Rights and Protections
An agent may not override your medical decisions while you are competent. A doctor, not your agent, decides when you are mentally unable to act. You may change your agent any time while you are competent. You may also discharge your agent verbally or in writing. If your spouse is your agent, a divorce automatically cancels her power to make medical decisions for you.
- Foundations for Healthy Communities: Advanced Health Care Planning Guide
- FindLaw: New Hampshire Durable Power of Attorney Laws
- New Hampshire General Court: Written Directives for Medical Decision Making for Adults Without Capacity to Make Health Care Decisions
- MayoClinic.com: Living Wills and Advance Directives for Medical Decisions
- Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images