A health care power of attorney (POA) is called an “Advance Health Care Directive”. This document gives your named “agent” the authority to make necessary health care decisions for you if you lack the capacity to do so, and to ensure that doctors and other health care providers give you the type of care you desire.
If your health declines to where you lack the capacity to communicate with others, the agent you named in your medical POA will communicate for you. Lacking capacity usually means:
- you can’t understand the nature and consequences of the health care choices available to you, and
- you cannot communicate your own wishes for care, either verbally, written, or through gestures.
When nominating your agent, you should choose someone that you trust and who can confidently talk to your doctors and won’t hesitate to act on your behalf. It is advisable to name an alternate agent who can step in if your first choice can’t serve. Further, due to conflicts of interest, most laws prohibit your medical provider and its employees from being named an agent.
Making your POA effective immediately does not give your agent the authority to override your desires in terms of treatment, as you will always be able to dictate your own medical care if you have the capacity to do so.
Your POA is typically no longer effective when:
- You revoke your document.
- A court invalidates your document.
- A court revokes your agent’s authority.
- You get a divorce (if you named your spouse as your health care agent).
- After your death.