Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney authorizes an individual to make medical decisions for you in the event you cannot make medical decisions for yourself.
What is a Medical Power of Attorney?
A medical power of attorney is a legal document through Texas Health and Safety Code which allows you to authorize someone (“the agent”) to make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot make the decision for yourself (“incompetency”).
A medical power of attorney is not an advanced directive which designates whether you desire to “pull the plug.”
Do I need a medical power of attorney?
Like most estate planning documents, a medical power of attorney is a security blanket for events we cannot foresee. A medical power of attorney is used when you cannot make decisions for yourself. Though no one expects or wants tragedy, this document gives you security that someone who shares your values and understands your wishes will make important decisions for you.
When does it take effect?
The medical power of attorney takes effect immediately after it is signed and remains until it is revoked. However, the agent does not have power to make healthcare decisions until a doctor has certified in writing that you are “incompetent.”
What kind of decisions can my agent make for me?
Your medical power of attorney agent would be able to make all the medical decisions you could unless your power of attorney limits their ability to make certain decisions. This includes medical treatments, surgeries, hospitalizations, and organ donation.
What kind of decisions can’t my agent make for me?
An agent cannot make any healthcare decision to which you object even if your doctor declares you incompetent.
Further, an agent cannot make the following healthcare decisions with a medical power of attorney:
- Commitment to a mental institution;
- Convulsive treatment;
- Abortion; and
- Neglect of comfort care
Who should serve as my medical power of attorney?
Someone whom you not only trust, but someone who shares your values and can act upon them. For example, you may trust “Sibling A” and “Sibling B” equally but know that “Sibling A” would be a better choice because s/he is not opposed to the personal values you share.
Generally, you may not name your doctor, healthcare provider, or someone who works for your doctor as your medical power of attorney.
How is a medical power of attorney different from a “living will?”
The medical power of attorney grants your agent to make broad decisions about your course of treatment. An advanced directive or “living will” specifically directs your healthcare provider on your wishes to be kept alive using extraordinary measures or to allow you to pass without extraordinary measures. If you have a medical power of attorney and advanced directive / living will, the medical power of attorney cannot contradict your wishes in the advanced directive.
Contact me, your estate planning attorney
Contact me, your Houston estate planning attorney to discuss your estate planning needs.