Understanding California Medical Power of Attorney
Many people in California and across the United States have a difficult time understanding medical power of attorney, and how it differs from a financial or more general power of attorney. In circumstances where an individual may not be able to make vital medical decisions on their own behalf, it is important to give someone who is highly trusted the authority to make those difficult decisions. Those who want more information regarding medical power of attorney or who have questions may want to consider visiting with Kushner Legal at (310) 279-5166.
Other Terms Used for a Medical Power of Attorney
In California, a medical power of attorney is often referred to as an “advance health care directive.” Other terms for this form include:
- Advance directive
- Durable power of attorney for health care
- Health power of attorney
Regardless of how it is worded, having this document is critical when someone may become medically debilitated to the extent they cannot make life-and-death decisions. According to the American Bar Association, only four states do not recognize a medical power of attorney. These include Texas, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin.
What Is a Medical Power of Attorney?
Estate planning focuses on the financial aspects of a person’s life for the most part. A medical power of attorney allows someone to appoint an “agent” who will make vital decisions regarding medical care should they become incapable of making decisions on their own. A medical power of attorney is an advance directive, which means a person directs who will be their agent regarding potential health care decisions in advance. According to WebMD, there are two types of advance directives:
- A power of attorney
- A living Will and Testament
Those needing further guidance concerning advance directives and estate planning may want to consider scheduling a consultation with Kushner Legal.
Things to Consider
Those who decide to use a medical power of attorney should consider putting certain things in writing regarding the type of care they prefer should they become incapacitated. Consider:
- Thoughts regarding organ donation
- Whether mechanical ventilation, antibiotics, tube feeding, CPR, or other life-sustaining options should be used, and for how long
- At what point artificial life support should be removed in the event you become brain dead, or whether it should continue until the heart stops beating naturally
- Disposal of body following death – cremation, burial, medical research
Medical power of attorney forms provide questions and other information to help someone make their wishes clear, however it is also possible to add specific details when the form does not provide for certain concerns.
Why Not a Living Will?
A living will is good for certain purposes, but not necessarily for medical concerns. One primary requirement of a living will is that in life and death situations, a person must be permanently incapacitated. An example of this would be if someone were to fall into a coma following a serious car accident or blow to the head. In the event they come out of the coma, a living will does not assist with medical care decisions to be made in the interim. A living will is only enforced when someone becomes permanently incapacitated. A medical power of attorney makes it possible for the agent to make key medical decisions regardless of whether someone is incapacitated permanently or temporarily.
Choosing an Agent
A medical power of attorney requires an agent who will be able to make tough decisions. There may also be alternate agents appointed who can make medical care decisions should the primary agent become unable to make these decisions. In choosing an agent or agents, consider someone who:
- Lives nearby or is willing to travel if necessary
- Will be capable of making difficult decisions in a stressful situation
- Will carry out your wishes, not his or her own
- Is capable of refusing or halting treatment even in a life-and-death situation, in accordance with the patient’s wishes
- Is confident and capable of standing firm in decisions when loved ones or health care providers may not agree
- Understands your moral and religious values
- Is highly trusted
- Knows and understands you well
It is important to note that someone cannot choose their health care provider or physician as their agent in a medical power of attorney. Physicians’ employees and residential health care providers and their employees cannot be agents unless they are relatives.
Consider Scheduling a Consultation with Kushner Legal
A medical power of attorney is an important tool in estate planning and helps prevent contention or disagreements between family members and loved ones should you become incapacitated. Most people do not expect to find themselves in a potentially life-threatening situation, but it does happen. Those needing legal guidance regarding estate planning in California may want to consider visiting with Kushner Legal at (310) 279-5166.