Health Care Power of Attorney & Living Wills
A Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA) designates a Health Care Representative who has authority to make decisions concerning your health and personal care in the event that you become incapable of making such decisions for yourself. This authority includes the ability to make decisions concerning your medical treatment, hospital and nursing home admissions and other critical decisions dealing with your health and well-being. The HCPOA also allows your Health Care Representative to discuss your medical issues with your health care providers. Without this authorization contained in the HCPOA, such discussions would be prohibited or severely restricted by the provisions of HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996).
A Living Will (or Advanced Health Care Directive, as it is properly called) is a legal document that is usually executed in conjunction with a Health Care Power of Attorney. In this document you designate in advance what health care methods of treatment are to be administered to you (or withheld from you) in the event that you are in a permanent state of unconsciousness or you are terminally ill with no reasonable hope of recovery. By this advance designation you relieve your family and loved ones from the burden of making such decisions at this most stressful of times.
A copy of your HCPOA & Living Will should be given to your primary care physician and, upon request, to any other health care provider. A medical professional will determine when the provisions of these documents will become operational ( i.e. when you are incapable of making medical decisions for yourself, your are in a permanent state of unconsciousness, or are terminally ill with no reasonable hop of recovery). You should discuss your preferences for non-end-stage medical situations (i.e. automobile accidents and acute onset illnesses) with your Health Care Representative so that he or she can convey your preferences to your health care providers on those occasions when you yourself are unable to do so.