Thursday, September 27, 2007

Who needs a Durable Power of Attorney?

You have the right in most situations to decide what medical care you receive. In order to assure that you maintain these rights if you are unable to communicate your wishes yourself, you can name a Durable Power of Attorney to make medical decisions for you.

Sometimes it is hard to know a patient’s wishes. For example,does your family know
if you want to be on a breathing machine if you are in a coma and will never wake up?You can make sure your doctors and others know your wishes by completing a living will and choosing someone to make decisions for you when you can not.

A Durable Power of Attorney allows you to give someone permission to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make those decisions yourself. The person you name to represent you may be called an agent, attorney-in-fact, health care proxy, patient advocate, or something similar, depending on where you live. It is unpleasant to think about being seriously ill or injured. However, it may be helpful to think about such situations before they occur. This way you can make your wants and beliefs known. You should talk to your family and your doctor about your beliefs
and the type of care that you do or do not want. What do you want your doctor to do
if you are in a coma? Do you want to go on living if you become terminally ill and
must be fed through a tube?

A Durable Power of Attorney is different from a Power of Attorney. A Power of Attorney allows you to have someone else make financial decisions on your behalf and to pay your bills, and manage your estate if you are currently incapable of handling these matters yourself.

There are several things that you can do to make your doctors aware of your wishes
about using life-sustaining treatment. You can appoint an agent (someone to make
decisions for you), you can prepare a living will, or you can do both.

The most important thing to do is to identify the person who will talk with your
doctor about your medical care if you are unable to do so. This person is your substitute decision maker, or agent. You need to talk to your agent about the care you would want if you were terminally ill or in a coma. Your agent can represent you if you cannot speak for yourself.

You may want to choose your agent now. You can choose whomever you want to serve as your agent — such as your spouse, or a parent, a son or daughter, or a friend. You can make your choice of an agent legally effective by signing a durable power of attorney form.

Your attorney can assist you drawing up this form. If you would like a free copy of an example of a Durable Power of Attorney form, simply e-mail Health Calls @ with your name and address for a copy to be sent to you.