Power of Attorney for Health Care is a legal power that allows one person to make medical decisions. This is typically reserved by each individual; however, it is possible for someone to assign Power of Attorney for Health Care to another individual with the correct legal forms. This power then allows the assigned Power of Attorney for Health Care to make medical decisions on behalf of the grantor of such powers.
Most typically, Power of Attorney for Health Care is not given to someone else except in extenuating circumstances; many people will use an Advance Health Care Directive in order to establish who their Power of Attorney for Health Care is in such cases. The Power of Attorney for Health Care will then have the ability to make medical decisions on behalf of someone who is mentally incapable of doing so themselves.
If you are familiar with Living Wills, then you know that these documents provide the instructions for your health care if you are medically incapacitated. For example, you can choose to continue life support if you are unconscious and living artificially on this basis. Many people with Living Wills assume that a Living Will is all they need in such cases.
But because health care can be such a complicated issue, it is customary for many people to also assign a Power of Attorney for Health Care in such cases. This person can then honor the instructions contained in the Living Will but also make decisions for situations that are not listed in the Living Will. Obviously, the Power of Attorney for Health Care is a very special power and should only be conferred on those you trust implicitly.
If you’re familiar with the different types of Power of Attorney, then you’ve likely heard of Durable Power of Attorney, which is what exists when the grantor dies or becomes incapacitated. Oftentimes, the Power of Attorney for Health Care is actually a type of Durable Power of Attorney allowing the attorney-in-fact (the person who has been assigned Power of Attorney) the ability to make medical care decisions such as the continuation of life support. In fact, you may grant someone Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care in order to accomplish your goals.
The Advance Health Care Directive is simply a document that expresses your wishes for your care should you become incapacitated; a Living Will, for example, is an Advance Health Care Directive. However, some people consider assigning a Power of Attorney for Health Care to be part of an Advance Health Care Directive, as this can “fill in the holes” that might be present in the Living Will, even though those holes may be difficult to forecast. Many people report that it is precisely this type of unforeseeable circumstance that leads them to want to assign a Power of Attorney for Health Care.
Though the situations vary, they are typically limited to issues in which the grantor is mentally incapacitated in some way. This is different than physically incapacitated, as someone who has a broken leg, for example, will still be able to make their own health care decisions. Someone who suffered a stroke and is now in a coma, however, will likely have their medical decisions defer to a Living Will or Advance Health Care Directive of some sort, which advise the Power of Attorney for Health Care for whoever is so assigned.
People who draft their Living Wills are often asked a number of medical questions in advance of these types of situations. However, there may be complications that further obscure the issues at hand, which is where the usefulness of having an appointed Power of Attorney for Health Care comes into play.
You can find more information about how long Power of Attorney for Health Care is effective in the question below; however, it’s worth mentioning that either you or a court can essentially revoke your document. The court has no power to revoke your wishes but can rule them invalidated. You alone possess the power to revoke your own medical wishes, however. Otherwise, the legal documents you have in place at the time of your incapacitation may take precedence over a number of other things.
The Power of Attorney for Health Care is only enforceable when it is granted from grantor to the attorney-in-fact; otherwise, the situation is only a legal hypothetical. Once the Powers of Attorney for Health Care have been granted (such as by an Advance Health Care Directive), then the attorney-in-fact will have legal powers that are considered enforceable despite a number of other factors.
Typically, the Power of Attorney for Health Care requires a few strong variables in order to be valid. For example, there must be no coercion that goes into signing a Power of Attorney for Health Care document – additionally, the grantor must not be mentally incapacitated in any way during the signing. The Power of Attorney for Health Care should also conform to all state and federal rules and regulations governing the Power of Attorney for Health Care.
It is considered effective in the prescribed situations that the grantor has detailed in their Advanced Health Care Directive. It ceases to be effective either if the grantor regains consciousness or the grantor passes on; otherwise, the Power of Attorney for Health Care will be considered “durable” and the decisions that are made will hold legal effectiveness.
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