Durable Power of Attorney - Healthcare
What is it?
Patient Advocate Designations are legal documents that allow individuals (called “Patients”) to appoint another person or persons (a “Patient Advocate”) to exercise powers over their care, custody and medical treatment decisions during any period in which they are unable to participate in making those decisions. A Patient Advocate Designation is sometimes identified as a Medical Power of Attorney or a Health Care Proxy. Every individual has the legal right to make decisions regarding their own medical treatment.
Patient Advocate Designations allow individuals to direct how medical treatment will be provided to them in the event that they are unable to participate in medical treatment decisions due to their mental or physical condition.
When will it take effect?
It is important to understand that the patient advocate’s authority is triggered only when you are unable to participate in medical or mental health treatment decisions and only arises if a physician and a mental health practitioner both examine the patient and certify in writing that the patient is unable to give informed consent to mental health treatment.
What Are the Responsibilities of Patient Advocates and the Limitations on their Powers?
The person appointed Patient Advocate must also sign an acceptance of the designation, agreeing to the terms of the appointment as set out in state law. These terms include certain legal limitations on the Patient Advocate’s authority.
An important thing to know about the limits on a Patient advocate’s authority is that a Patient Advocate cannot, under any circumstances, direct medical treatment that would lead to the death of the Patient.
The Patient Advocate has the duty to act in the Patient’s best interests. Preferences expressed or evidenced when the Patient is able to participate in medical treatment decisions are presumed to be in the Patient’s best interests. The Patient Advocate has a duty to take reasonable steps to follow the Patient’s expressed desires, preferences and instructions. While these desires do not have to be set forth in writing, one of the best ways to ensure that the Patient Advocate has notice of them is to include them in the Patient Advocate Designation.
Who should you name as your patient advocate and successor(s)?
It is advised to select someone whom you trust, who knows the you well, and who is willing to carry out your wishes with respect to health care, mental health treatment, removal of life support, and anatomical gifts. It is generally a wise precaution to designate a successor agent in case the primary agent cannot act. The Patient Advocate’s powers cannot be delegated to another person without prior authorization by the Patient.
What powers should you give your patient advocate?
You can determine your wishes regarding medical care and treatment, mental health care and treatment, life support and anatomical gifts and specify the desired powers in the agreement.
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