What is a medical power of attorney?

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What is a medical power of attorney?


If you have a chronic illness or are getting older, it’s essential to understand a medical power of attorney. Without this document in place, your wishes may not be enforced by the doctors treating you. A medical power of attorney is an agreement between you and another individual to represent you if you cannot do so yourself legally. This person will have all the rights given under law to make decisions for your health care if necessary.


A specific type of power of attorney, this designation applies only to health care matters – whether that treatment should continue or new treatments tried; which hospital should be used; if organ donation is advisable; whether life-sustaining measures can be discontinued.

Typically, one begins by naming one’s spouse, adult child, parent, or sibling. This person is generally given the authority to make some health care decisions but not all major ones. A policy of limiting one’s choices can be beneficial if there are some family members who you know would choose measures that keep you alive but may compromise your quality of life more than you are willing to suffer.


It is essential to think through these matters beforehand – even when they seem remote – because it may become necessary for your health care proxy to act immediately. You don’t want your loved ones put in this position without guidelines about what kind of treatment suits your wishes best. Without a durable power of attorney, doctors will have no choice but to honor the requests of parents, spouses, and children over yours.


A medical power of attorney is a legal document that names somebody you trust to make medical decisions for you if needed. If you cannot communicate your needs about your health care, it may be necessary for somebody else to make these hard choices. This person must have the authority to speak for you about what kind of health care measures are best suited for your situation.


Without this document in place, doctors will honor the wishes of family members over yours during final moments when making life-saving treatments. Family caregivers must know how they feel about every type of potential treatment before something happens unexpectedly.


Personalizing this document can help keep medicine or tests from being discontinued prematurely just because one does not want them – regardless of how much benefit they might offer or how low the risk of side effects or complications.


This form should only be signed by both you and your designated power of attorney – never alone. This other person must have full authority to speak for you while you cannot do so yourself. The legal powers given to your proxy will depend on state laws, so it is best to consult with an attorney beforehand about what form to look for medical power of attorney is appropriate in your case.


A medical power of attorney can help protect against unnecessary suffering when all hope has been lost. Still, it can also help avoid ineffective treatments that may cause more harm than good for a patient who wants to die peacefully without suffering unnecessarily.