Estate and Gifts, Torree J. Breen, Durable Powers of Attorney for Medical

What is a Health Power of Attorney?

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A health durable power of attorney is granted by a legal document providing written authorization for an agent to make decisions on behalf of a principal when he/she is incapacitated. The legal document is prepared by the principal, who selects the person he/she wants for his/her agent to make medical decisions on the principal’s behalf.

Generally, an agent named in a durable medical power of attorney has broad powers to make all decisions related to medical and health issues on the principal’s behalf when he/she becomes incapacitated. The agent will have access to all medical records and will be able to discuss your care with your physicians.  The agent will also be able to discuss insurance claims on behalf of the incapacitated.  The decisions of the agent might also include accepting or rejecting diagnoses and treatment options, selecting medical personnel, selecting health care and living facilities and/or cutting off life support.

As part of his/her general powers, a medical agent under a durable power of attorney has the authority to restrict or deny visitors access to the principal. The agent may do so even if the medical professionals treating the principal have not recommended against visitors if he believes that the visits would be detrimental to the principal’s physical health or emotional well-being. He/she may allow some visitors and refuse others as long as he does not violate his/her fiduciary duty to make all decisions based on the best interests of the principal.

In selecting your agent, you should be able to discuss what is important to you in a medical emergency.  Your agent should be a person that is willing to follow through with your medical directives.  You should discuss your medical plans with your agent before designating them as your health power of attorney to ensure they are able to follow through with your plans.