No one wants to think about a time when they will no longer be capable of making their own decisions regarding their medical care and must trust someone else to make end-of-life decisions for them. However, it can happen at any time when a unforeseen accident happens or an illness creates a situation where you are no longer able to make your our medical decisions. As part of your estate planning, you need to appoint a power-of-attorney agent and detail your wishes regarding medical care. This can give you peace of mind as well as reduce the burden on your loved ones if there comes a time when these hard decisions regarding your care must be made.
Choosing A Health Care Power Of Attorney
A health care power of attorney is similar to one used for financial affairs but instead is a agent which you assign the right to make medical decisions for you when you are no longer able to make them for yourself. Many people may have two different people with power of attorney, one for financial affairs and one for health care. This is sometimes also referred to as a health care proxy. This person should be someone you trust, usually a friend or family member. Once you give appoint this agent, unless you revoke the power, they will have the right to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are no longer capable, including:
- Medical treatments
- Life support, both continuing and ending support
- Organ donation
- Disposal of remains
This is an important role and it should be one you discuss with the person ahead of time. Discuss your wishes to ensure that the person you choose is comfortable with complying with your choices when and if the time comes.
Detailing Your End-Of-Life Wishes
In addition to choosing health care power of attorney, you should also need to document your medical wishes regarding your end-of-life care. Your health care power of attorney must comply with your specific instructions, so detailing these is crucial. Since there is no way of knowing exactly what decisions will need to be made, it is important to give as much direction as possible. Things to include may be:
- Your wishes regarding life support
- Whether you wish to be medically resuscitated
- Any treatments or procedures that are against your personal or religious beliefs
This is referred to as a medical or advance directive and can reduce the burden on your chosen health care power of attorney. Due to new policies regarding health care privacy, it is a good idea for everyone to assign an agent as medical providers are not allowed to discuss the health care of their patients with anyone without legal consent. It is understandable that many people procrastinate on this subject as it is not pleasant to think about. However, for your own benefit and those who love you, take the time to outline your wishes and choose a person to ensure those wishes are fulfilled. By making clear what your choices are, it can relieve others from second guessing what you would want done and give them peace of mind that they are following your wishes. for more information on advance directives look here.