Understanding Medical Power of Attorney

For medical power of attorney, or durable power of attorney for health care, an agent is able to make medical decisions, large or small, in place of another.

A person might need to give someone a medical power of attorney authority when they cannot make informed decisions for themselves. Frequently, elderly people grant medical power of attorney to their children or siblings. If the elderly person's health or mental state begin to decline and they are not able to make competent decisions, the agent can make arrangements for doctor visits, treatments, medications, tests and surgeries if needed. It also gives the agent the power to make decisions about life support.

It is common for people to have someone carry out the medical power of attorney authority if they suffer from dementia, permanent disability, mental decline or senility. However the process to appoint an agent should be done before the person's competency is questionable. As long as the individual can make decisions for themselves, there is no need for a power of attorney. However, arrangements should be made so that there is someone the individual trusts with their health and well being before their physical or mental health declines too much.

When someone has been granted the medical power of attorney for another, they have an ethical responsibility to act in good faith on behalf of the person. This means they cannot order unnecessary medical tests or procedures or do anything that is against the wishes of the individual. A medical power of attorney is only allowed to make decisions regarding health care. They have no say in financial matters.

Power of attorney laws do vary from state to state, so it's best to consult with an attorney near you on the scope and range that a medical power of attorney contract has for you.

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