Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Questions & Answers: Advance Directives and End of Life Decisions

What is a medical power of attorney?

A medical power of attorney is a document that lets you appoint someone you trust to make decisions about your medical care if you cannot make them yourself.

This type of advance directive can also be called a "healthcare proxy," "appointment of a healthcare agent," or "durable power of attorney for healthcare." The person you appoint may be called your healthcare agent, surrogate, attorney-in-fact, or healthcare proxy. The person you appoint through a medical power of attorney usually is authorized to deal with all medical situations, not only end-of-life decisions when you cannot speak for yourself. Thus, he or she can speak for you if you become temporarily incapacitated-after an accident, for example-as well as if you become incapacitated because of irreversible disease or injury.

Recommended Related to Healthy Seniors

Over 40, Fit, and Ready to Bare Arms

Madonna and Michelle Obama seem to have little in common. But together, they have awakened American women of a certain age to the allure of tight, toned arms. They've sent the message that those arms and toned, taut bodies may be within reach for other 40-somethings and older. That message has been helped along by a legion of other celebrities who have passed their 40th birthday, yet remain virtually flab-free. The list includes Sarah Jessica Parker, Ellen Barkin, and Mary Tyler Moore. But leading...

Read the Over 40, Fit, and Ready to Bare Arms article > >

Generally, the law requires your agent to make the same medical decisions that you would have made, if possible. To help your agent do this, it is essential that you discuss your values about the quality of life that is important to you and the kinds of decisions you would make in various situations. For example, how aggressively would you want medical treatments supplied if you had Alzheimer's disease or if you were in a coma and unlikely to recover? Share your thoughts concerning someone you have known who was very ill and how you would want to be treated if you were in a similar situation. These discussions will help your agent to form a picture of your views regarding the use of medical treatments.

If this discussion does not take place, your agent will have to examine any general statements you might have made, your religious and moral beliefs, and what he or she knows about your values in general. When your wishes about a particular medical decision are not known your agent must act in your best interest, using his or her own judgment depending on your state's law.

Some states let you appoint an agent within the living will. This is different from a medical power of attorney, because an agent appointed in a living will can only make decisions about using medical treatments, and only if you are in one of the medical conditions specified in your state's law (such as "terminally ill," "permanently unconscious," or "imminently dying").

WebMD Medical Reference from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

disciplining a boy
Types, symptoms, causes.
Remember your finger
Are You Getting More Forgetful?
fruit drinks
Eat these to think better.
No gym workout
Moves to help control blood sugar.
acupuncture needle on shoulder
10 tips to look and feel good.
Close up of eye
12 reasons you're distracted.
birth control pills
Which kind is right for you?
embarrassed woman
Do you feel guilty after eating?
Epinephrine Injection using Auto-Injector Syringe
Life-threatening triggers.
woman biting a big ice cube
Habits that wreck your teeth.
pacemaker next to xray
Treatment options.
caregiver with parent
10 tips for daily life.

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.