Medical Power of Attorney

Medical Power of Attorney

While the durable power of attorney is used for property management purposes, the medical power of attorney is used for making healthcare decisions. Every state has enacted legislation authorizing the use of this device, although the various statutes use different names for the instrument.

New York, for example, calls it a Health Care Proxy, Texas calls it a Medical Power of Attorney, and Maine calls it a Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney. Regardless of the name, the purpose of the device is the same: An individual, as principal (you), appoints someone else (an agent) to make healthcare decisions for him or her in the event the person ever lacks the capacity to do so.

It is a document, signed by a competent adult, i.e., "principal," designating a person that the principal trusts to make health care decisions on the principal's behalf should the principal be unable to make such decisions. The individual chosen to act on the principal's behalf is referred to as an "agent."

It is effective immediately after it is executed and delivered to the agent. It is effective indefinitely unless it contains a specific termination date, it is revoked, or the principal becomes competent.

An agent may make health care decisions on the principal's behalf only if the principal's attending physician certifies in writing that the principal is incompetent. The physician must file the certification in the principal's medical record.