Healthcare Power of Attorney or Living Will

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.

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