Health Care Power of Attorney
Health Care Power of Attorney
Your Health Care Power of Attorney (Health Care POA) is a written document in which you designate the person who will direct your medical care in the event that you can’t because of illness, accident, or advanced age. The Health Care POA clears up your intent as to who should have final authority in those rare but anxiety-filled times for your family and gives everyone the peace of mind that a plan exists. When no Health Care POA exists, a spouse will generally have authority over decisions, but these important matters could end up in the hands of estranged family members, doctors, or even judges, who know little about your preferences. In the absence of a Health Care POA and spouse, someone must apply for guardianship in order to make decisions. Guardianships can be costly and take time, when often the need to make such decisions is immediate.
A Health Care POA also allows you to identify those medical procedures or decisions you do or don’t want to receive. For example, in the Health Care POA you can state your wishes as to organ donation, whether or not an autopsy should be conducted, and what your desire is pertaining to funeral and burial disposition. There is also ample room in the document to detail any issues you might have with a specific procedure.
Arizona is one of a few states to offer a Mental Health Care Power of Attorney (Medical Health Care POA). Regular Health Care POAs do not include the authority to make mental health decisions and do not give your agent the power to consent to your admission at behavioral facilities. The Mental Health Care POA allows you to grant your agent the power to admit you to a facility, but only after evaluation by a licensed professional. A Mental Health Care POA is helpful for everyone, regardless of age or health status, but is especially critical in those situations where Alzheimer’s and dementia may play a factor. Without a Mental Health Care POA, someone will have to pursue an emergency guardianship if you’re unable or unwilling to accept inpatient behavioral health treatment when required.
A Health Care POA and a Mental Health Care POA are not effective in the event of a medical emergency. Ambulance and hospital emergency department personnel are required to provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) unless they are given a separate directive that states otherwise. This directive is called a “prehospital medical care directive”, or “do not resuscitate (DNR) order”. These are designed for people whose poor health give them little chance of benefiting from CPR. There is a specific form required by the Arizona Department of Health Services for this type of directive which must be signed by you, your physician and a witness. Your physician can give you more information about this type of directive.
Each estate plan should provide for multiple eventualities. The Health Care POA and Mental Health Care POA are important legal documents that address your medical and mental treatment and keep decisions about your well-being as close to your intent as possible.
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