Medical Power of Attorney Definition
Individuals planning their estate for after they’re gone have probably also considered what might happen if they get into an accident, have a surgical mishap, or are rendered mentally incompetent by age or disease.
While these are not pleasant topics, planning ahead makes them much more bearable. Having a medical power of attorney in place is an important part of estate and life planning and makes handling the affairs of an incapacitated person go smoothly.
A medical power of attorney is a type of enduring power of attorney. Unless otherwise stipulated, other powers of attorney automatically terminate if the principal is incapacitated, since they can’t be assumed to consent while unconscious or mentally incompetent.
The medical power of attorney, because it is durable, gives express authorization for the designated agent to act on behalf of the principal in the event of his incapacitation.
A medical power of attorney is also a springing power of attorney. This simply means that it only takes effect when the precedent condition takes place. A medical power of attorney grants no authority while the principal is of sound mind and body.
It is only when she is incapacitated by unconsciousness, physical inability to communicate or mental deficit that the medical power of attorney springs into effect, and only for as long as the condition persists.
A medical power of attorney is usually created to prevent the loss of valuable time in an emergency situation if express authorization is needed to perform a specific medical treatment. It is also commonly used to ensure the principal’s intent on life support is carried out.
Usually, the principal and the agent communicate in advance so there is no question as to the principal’s intent. Still, because not all events are foreseeable, the agent can also be granted powers to make decisions in situations not expressly described in the power of attorney.
A medical power of attorney will usually list all the treatments, procedures and life-prolonging care to which the principal consents to receive if necessary, and those to which he forbids the agent from approving. The document can also allow the agent to execute all or only specific medical forms, including refusal to accept treatment and leaving the hospital against medical advice forms.
The agent can also be granted any other medical-related power, such as to view or authorize the viewing of health records. It can also name an alternate agent if the primary agent is unavailable.
A medical power of attorney does not grant an agent the power to make financial decisions, access bank accounts or complete other functions typically associated with other powers of attorney. Thus, it is usually used in conjunction with a springing durable general or durable special power of attorney that is designed to empower someone to carry out these functions.
To avoid confusion, however, no other power of attorney should authorize an agent with respect to medical decisions, though the alternate agent might be the individual granted power of attorney in another respect.
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