A healthcare power of attorney and a living will are inter-related, they
are different documents. You may choose to have either or both, depending
on your objective.
A healthcare power of attorney appoints another individual who is authorized
to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. If
you are unable to speak for yourself, your healthcare providers will take
instructions only from your designated representative. Therefore, it is
very important that this person be someone who knows you well, would be
in a position to determine what your wishes would probably be, and would
take this responsibility very seriously.
Without a healthcare power of attorney, laws determine who can make these
decisions. If you are married, this person is automatically your spouse.
However, if another person, such as parents or children, believe a different
healthcare decision be made, this would require court intervention. A
healthcare power of attorney solves that issue.
A living will, also referred to as an advanced directive, is a document
that specifies what treatment you do or do not wish to receive under certain
situations. This may include whether you wish to be placed on life-support,
be resuscitated, or receive palliative care. If you are unable to speak
for yourself, your healthcare providers will follow the instructions contained
in the living will. However, a living will cannot anticipate all possible
medical scenarios, and controls only the issues addressed in that document.
If you have both a healthcare power of attorney and a living will, your
representative will make medical decisions on your behalf, but will be
bound by the conditions stated in your living will. Thus, this option
provides your direct instructions for many healthcare issues, while simultaneously
designating an individual to make any other medical decisions.