Elder Law of Louisville's Blog

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Why We Utilize Medical Powers of Attorney

"Jane" has been helping her father, "John," for many, many years. Until recently Jane rested comfortably with the thought that she would be able to handle anything that came along.

Then John developed an illness that left him unable to understand his health care needs. As his involved daughter, Jane was astounded when John's doctors would not accept her authorization for treatment.  You see, Jane has several siblings.  John never legally appointed anyone to make medical decisions for him.  Because the doctors were aware that there was some conflict in the family about the best course of action, John's physicians were reluctant to go forward with the potentially life-altering surgery Jane wanted for her father without the consent of her brothers and sisters. 
Also known as a Medical Power of Attorney or Health Care Proxy, the Power of Attorney For Health Care gives a person named by you the authority to make medical decisions for you if you can't do so for yourself.  If you're a caregiver, this document gives you authorization not only to talk to medical personnel, but to consent to care for your loved one.  
Contrary to what many people believe, a Power of Attorney for Health Care is not the same as a "Living Will."  The Living Will only comes into play if a person is terminally ill with little or no hope of recovery.  The Power of Attorney for Health Care can be used even if the patient isn't terminally ill.  If you are ill or injured and need someone to be your authorized representative with doctors or hospitals when you can't, the Power of Attorney for Health Care will give the person you name that authority.  
If you were in an accident, or if emergency personnel were to come to your aid while you were home alone, how would the medical personnel who treat you in an emergency know that you have named someone your "Agent in Fact" (your Power of Attorney for Health Care)? Here's how to be sure they will know, even if you can't tell them yourself.
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