What is a Health Care Power of Attorney?
A health care power of attorney is a legal document by which you appoint another person or persons who can consent to or refuse any or all medical care, including mental health treatment, on your behalf if a physician or eligible psychologist determines that you are unable to make or communicate these decisions yourself. You may authorize the designated person (the “health care agent”) to consent to the withholding or withdrawal of life-prolonging measures, and direct your health care agent regarding those medical and/or mental health treatments you would want, and those you would not want. In addition to making decisions in “life and death” situations, your health care agent also may be authorized to make more routine medical decisions for you (for example, to consent to X-rays or surgery).
A health care power of attorney may contain or incorporate by reference any lawful guidelines or directions relating to your health care as you deem appropriate, including instructions to your health care agent to refuse any specific types of treatment that are unacceptable to you for religious or other reasons. In the event of death, you may authorize your health care agent to donate your organs and/or authorize an autopsy. A health care power of attorney will remain effective if a court appoints a guardian to act on your behalf, unless the court issues an order suspending the authority of the health care agent. You may indicate in the document your choice of a guardian in the event guardianship proceedings are commenced.