Is a Healthcare Power of Attorney Essential If You Have a Living Will?
A power of attorney health care allows you to name a person you trust to act as your agent and make healthcare decisions for you if you cannot speak up for yourself about medical treatment. Creating a healthcare power of attorney and naming an agent who will decide on medical care allows you to have more control over what happens if you become sick or hurt. By taking action in advance to name an agent, you can also ensure your family does not face a difficult choice if something happens to you.
In addition to creating a power of attorney, some people also have an advanced directive or a living will. Having an advanced directive or living will also gives you control over future medical decisions, but it works differently than a healthcare power of attorney.
A Loveland, Ohio incapacity planning lawyer at The Zimmer Law Firm can explain the differences between a living will and a healthcare power of attorney and can help you to understand why both are important tools that you should have.
What is a Living Will & a Power of Attorney Health Care?
According to the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA): “A living will is a legal document you can use to set forth your directions about the use or non-use of artificial life-sustaining support if you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious.”
A living will ONLY goes into effect if you have a terminal illness (an illness likely to end in death) or if you are permanently unconscious. It does not apply in other medical situations. Two doctors will need to determine if you qualify as terminally ill or if you qualify as permanently unconscious when determining if a living will goes into effect.
A healthcare power of attorney differs from a living will. A power of attorney health care is defined by OSBA as: “a legal document that authorizes another person (your agent) to obtain your health information and to make health care decisions for you.”
Do You Need a Healthcare Power of Attorney?
Creating a living will is important because the living will gives you the chance to be very specific about treatment you do, and do not, want.
When you create a living will, you can make your wishes known about whether you want extraordinary measures taken to resuscitate you. You can specify in advance whether you want CPR to be performed and whether you want artificial nutrition or hydration in the form of a feeding tube. These are some of the most difficult decisions that have to be made in case of incapacity, and the creation of a living will gives you the chance to make a definitive choice on these life-and-death matters.
A living will, however, is limited only to situations where you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious. There may be other situations where you are unable to make or communicate medical choices. You need a healthcare power of attorney for these situations, so you can choose who will act as your agent.
Your agent has broad authority to make medical decisions on your behalf when you cannot. However, even your agent is limited in certain ways. For example, an agent cannot order life-sustaining treatment, artificial nutrition, or artificial hydration to be withdrawn unless two doctors confirm you’re permanently unconscious or terminally ill and there’s no reasonable chance you will recover enough to make decisions on your own.
Your agent also cannot order the withdrawal of palliative treatment or order the withdrawal of treatment you have consented to in the past, unless there has been a marked change in your condition and your treatment is markedly less beneficial.
If you are pregnant, your agent is not permitted to refuse treatment if the refusal would end your pregnancy, unless two doctors indicate the fetus wouldn’t be viable or unless the pregnancy poses a substantial risk to your life.
Finally, any decisions you made in a living will are also going to supersede decisions your agent makes.
Despite the limitations on agents, your agent can make the majority of medical choices for you if you are not able to communicate. While a living will gives you have the most control in a specific situation (terminal illness or permanent unconsciousness),creating a healthcare power of attorney gives you broader control by letting you choose who will speak for you when you cannot speak for yourself.
How a Loveland Power of Attorney Health Care Lawyer Can Help
You need to ensure you follow Ohio laws when creating a living will and a healthcare power of attorney. The Zimmer Law Firm can help. Give us a call at 513.721.1513 to speak with a Loveland power of attorney health care lawyer. You can also download our FREE estate planning peace of mind checklist to learn more about how to protect your future.