Durable Power of Attorney
The second part of the Advance Directive, is often referred to as the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.
It provides the designation of someone who will be able to make decisions regarding health care if you are unable to speak for yourself due to illness or incapacitation. This designated person may also be called a health care agent, proxy, surrogate or representative. This person should be informed and agree that you are naming him or her in the AD. iIt must be a person you know will truly go to bat for you and express exactly what your wishes are when you are not able.
Preparing this document provides the opportunity to designate an agent to speak on your behalf and communicate your wishes if you are not able to do so yourself. Appointing an agent and making sure the agent is aware of and understands your wishes is one of the most important things that you can do for yourself and your loved ones. If the time comes for a decision to be made, the agent can participate in relevant discussions, weighing the pros and cons of treatment decisions based on your previously expressed wishes. The agent can participate even if decision-making capacity is only temporarily affected. The degree of authority (how much or how little) you want this agent to have can be defined in the document. Alternate agents can also be appointed, in case the primary agent is unwilling or unable to act. Additionally, you may name individuals who specifically are NOT to participate in decision-making.
If an agent is not appointed, the law in most states provides for other decision-makers by default, usually beginning with the spouse and adult children and ending with the patient’s physician. Physicians tend to err on the side of prolonging life so their decisions may not be consistent with the patient’s desires. In some cases, if the patient does not have an AD, a court may be required to appoint a guardian.
To learn more, contact your family attorney.