The durable power of attorney for healthcare is one of two components of what are known as Health Care or Advanced Directives. The other is the living will. Together, these two Advanced Directives documents allow your parent to express their wishes concerning medical treatment, particularly at the end of life.
The healthcare power of attorney is a legal document by which someone grants authority to make decisions regarding medical care in the event he or she is unable to do so, due to unconsciousness or lack of mental capacity. This agent is also called attorney-in-fact for health care, health proxy or health surrogate. It is prudent to designate a primary health care agent, but also to designate a second and third person to make decisions in the event that the first person is not available. Physicians and medical professionals typically make the assessment as to whether a person is capable of making their own decisions and if decisions should be made by the health care proxy according to the wishes outlined in the patient’s Advanced Directives.
It is important that your parent carefully choose the health care proxy and that he or she is made aware of your parent’s wishes regarding his or her medical treatment in a variety of situations, particularly in situations such as terminal illness, deep coma and or persistent vegetative state. Ideally, an individual’s specific preferences are detailed in a companion health care planning document, the living will. This second Advanced Directive is detailed in another article. It’s important to make more than one copy of Advanced Directives so that designated family members can access them easily.