What is the Difference Between a Healthcare Power of Attorney and a Living Will?
A healthcare power of attorney and a living will can both give you a certain degree of autonomy over your medical decisions, even in situations where you can no longer make or express your decisions. However, there are important differences between the two approaches to advanced directives for healthcare. Since a healthcare power of attorney and a living will work differently in helping you to preserve some of your rights, even when you are incapacitated, it is common for people to have both.
Zimmer Law Firm can assist you in determining if you should have a healthcare power of attorney, a living will, and/or other advanced directives for healthcare. If you have decided it makes sense for you to take control and plan for incapacity instead of leaving things up to change, give us a call today.
Our legal team can help you to create a legally valid healthcare power of attorney and can guide you through other steps you need to take to avoid unwanted medical care in the future.
What is a Healthcare Power of Attorney?
A healthcare power of attorney is a document that you create in which you grant authority to someone to make your medical choices on your behalf in the event you suffer an incapacitating illness or injury and cannot make your own decisions. The person who is given the authority to make decisions is called an agent.
The healthcare power of attorney takes effect when an attending physician makes a determination that the patient no longer has the capacity to make informed choices about medical care. There is no requirement that a court declare incompetency before an agent can take over on making medical choices when a healthcare power of attorney has been created.
The healthcare power of attorney can become effective even in situations where a patient is temporarily unconscious and a decision on medical care needed to be made. There is no requirement that you be permanently incapacitated for a healthcare power of attorney to become effective. For example, if you are temporarily unconscious due to an accident and a decision has to be made on treatment, your agent named in the healthcare proxy would make your decisions under those circumstances.
There is a standard form that may be used to create a healthcare power of attorney. Cleveland Clinic has examples of this form available for patients. While you can print and complete the form on your own, it is generally best to create a healthcare power of attorney as part of a comprehensive incapacity plan made with the help of an experienced attorney.
How Does a Healthcare Power of Attorney Differ From a Living Will?
A healthcare power of attorney is different from a living will, because naming an agent involves designated someone to act for you while a living will allows you to provide advanced instructions for yourself. As the Cleveland Clinic explains: “Living Will Declaration means a legal document that lets a competent adult (“declarant”) specify what health care the declarant wants or does not want when he or she becomes terminally ill or permanently unconscious and can no longer make his or her wishes known.”
A living will allows you to make decisions in advance about whether you want medical treatment that artificially or technologically postpones death. You can specify that you do not wish to be hooked up to life support equipment. However, even if you indicate that you do not want to artificially postpone death, you will still be administered medication to ease your pain in the event of a medical emergency.
Getting Help from a Cincinnati Power of Attorney Lawyer
Illness or injury could strike at any time, and could sometimes leave you incapacitated and not able to properly make or express your own choices about medical care. You need to be prepared well in advance of this happening to you so you can get a plan in place. Without a plan, your family could face legal challenges and difficult choices.
Zimmer Law Firm is ready to assist you now. Our Cincinnati attorneys can help you to create a healthcare power of attorney, a living will, and other advanced directives you need to dictate the kind of care you do, and do not, wish to receive. To find out more about how we can help, give us a call at 513.721.1513. You can also join us for a free seminar to find out more about advanced directives for healthcare and about how these directives fit into your end-of-life plan.