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A medical power of attorney grants to someone you choose, the power to act on your behalf in relation to medical decisions.

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Medical Power of Attorney Information

A Medical Power of Attorney is sometimes called a:

  • Medical Power of Attorney Directive
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
  • Advance Health Care Directive

What is a Medical Power of Attorney?

A medical power of attorney grants to someone you choose, the power to act on your behalf in relation to medical decisions. It covers circumstances where a person delegating their power of attorney (the Principal) is preparing for the possible eventuality of becoming incapacitated. Medical power of attorney covers medical care decisions only for the duration of inability of the person signing such an agreement to manage their own affairs alone.

Medical power of attorney means a specified person (the Attorney-in-fact) is legally permitted to manage medical matters for the ‘Principal’, who delegates their decision making on medical issues. It allows this trusted person to continue acting on the principal's behalf if they become too ill to manage their affairs or unable to communicate their medical wishes. Without this provision, if unfortunate circumstances do befall a person, their family or friends may need to go to court to obtain authority to handle that person’s medical affairs.

The legal document involved sets out specific wishes for health care for when a person is too ill or due to injury, can no longer express their wishes. In this case, the named trusted person is authorised to oversee medical care and make health care decisions in their place.

Terminology: The appointed attorney is referred to by a variety of names, including: ‘agent,’ or ‘advocate’, or similar. This person is legally obliged to follow the principal’s treatment preferences to the extent that they know about them.

Pre-Arrangement: The document authorising medical power of attorney can be drafted in advance of incapacity, so that this power of attorney becomes immediately effective upon the principal becoming incapacitated, or it can be in place throughout a person’s disability, regardless of capacity to communicate.

Incapacity includes when the principal is injured, sick or disabled such that they are not able to communicate or express their wishes.

Types of Directives: For clarity when formalising your medical arrangements, a second type of health care directive can be used, known as either a ‘health care declaration’ or ‘living will’. This outlines health care instructions for both your agent and health care providers.

Extent of Medical Power of Attorney: The scope for medical power of attorney can vary between U.S. state jurisdictions. Thus, the Principal may only delegate powers delineated by the state statutes in which they are to be applied.

Medical Power of Attorney may also involve the use of specific language as specified in the relevant state statute. Some U.S. states combine forms into a document commonly called an ‘advance health care directive.’

Limited powers of attorney are exactly as described; they outline restrictions on the attorney's powers to act on behalf of the Principal. Specific powers will outline the circumstances in which they are entitled to act, such as signing treatment authority, when the principal may be unable to.

The lawyer acting for the Principal and the Attorney-in-fact will keep the signed documents for the Medical Power of Attorney.

Power to Revoke. Medical power of attorney can be revoked by the principal any time while they still have the legal capacity to act. Following their incapacitation, however, a person with their interests in mind, such as a family member, friend or a business colleague, can petition a local probate court to become the principal’s appointed ‘conservator’ and if successful, they can then petition the probate court to revoke any pre-existing Medical power of attorney.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Who should I choose as my attorney or agent?

    • Your attorney should be trusted by you and be knowledgeable about your wishes, values and beliefs. You should be confident they will always make health care decisions based upon your best interests.

  2. Can I choose more than one agent?

    • Yes. You can designate a primary and secondary attorney or agent or joint agents who can discuss decisions together.

  3. To what extent is an attorney liable for a decision they make under the authority of a Medical Power of Attorney?

    • An attorney, acting in good faith, is not legally liable for a healthcare decision made under a Medical Power of Attorney.

Download a PDF or Word Template

Medical Power of Attorney

Medical power of attorney delegates to someone you choose, the power to act on your behalf in relation to medical decisions. It covers circumstances where you as the Principal are preparing for the possible eventuality of becoming incapacitated in managing your own health care alone.

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