You can never know when you might get sick and become incapacitated. It is important to decide who will have the right to make healthcare decisions for you, and grant them that right through legal documents. The three types of legal documents you can prepare are health care proxies, power of attorneys, and living wills. Let’s review them one by one and understand what they are and what benefits they provide.
What Is a Healthcare Proxy?
Also known under the names of “durable healthcare power of attorney”, “medical power of attorney”, or “health care agent appointment”, a health care proxy is a legal document that allows you to put someone in charge of expressing your wishes and making sure they are respected.
They will be able to decide in your place what treatment you should follow, in which facility, under whose medical supervision, etc. It is therefore very important that you share your wishes and treatment preferences with them, to make sure you’re on the same page. Don’t forget to let them know if you change your mind about anything.
What Is a Power of Attorney?
It is the legal document that lets you appoint an attorney or an agent to make decisions regarding your assets, finances, health, and other issues. Your life and future could depend on them, as they will choose your treatments, pay for them, appeal coverage denials, and handle any other health-related issues.
It is up to you to decide which decision categories you include in the power of attorney you grant. You can focus exclusively on healthcare, combine it with finances, or give your agent full responsibility and freedom. If you want to, you can name your attorney as your healthcare proxy, but keep in mind that you would need to prepare a separate document for that.
If we were to make a comparison, health care proxy vs. power of attorney, we could consider the healthcare proxy a component of the general power of attorney. It all depends on the freedoms and powers you wish to grant through the power of attorney.
What Is a Living Will?
This legal document is the most limited in scope. It focuses on the healthcare services you wish to receive in case you become incapacitated. You can use it to decide whether the doctors should resuscitate you or not, of whether they should keep you connected to machines in case you are unable to breathe on your own.
It will serve as a guide for both doctors and relatives, letting them know what you want and have already arranged. You can accompany it with advanced directives, or include advanced directives in your living will stipulations.
Remember to submit a copy of your living will to your hospital or clinic of choice, and keep a copy of the documents with you every time you seek treatment, to make sure your wishes are fulfilled. Without an attorney, agent, or health care proxy to enforce your wish, you are responsible for informing everyone of your choices.
Aspects to Consider When Preparing Healthcare Proxies, Powers of Attorney, or Living Wills
As explained above, these documents, especially the first two, basically place your life and health into other people’s hands. If you want to make sure your intentions are followed, it is very important to choose someone reliable, who will put your comfort and wishes first.
Assuming they have the best intentions, you need to make your wishes and plans known, to present your arguments, and make sure the attorney, agent, or proxy you appoint follows them. It helps to choose someone with similar visions and ideas.
If you want to make their work easier, discuss your plans with your family members in advance, to spare them the pain of discovering that you’ve made opposing decisions in a delicate moment and avoid conflicts.
When preparing the documents, you may want to consult with an attorney, just to make sure they are complete and in line with your needs and expectations. Many health care providers have their own legal advisers, so, if necessary, place an inquiry with your agency!