Skip to content

Information and Resources

Questions & Answers: Advance Directives and End of Life Decisions

Font Size
A
A
A

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

Nutrition Challenges When You're Older or Sick

Like many things in life as we get older, eating can be a challenge. The sense of taste, like the other senses, diminishes as we age. Appetite and taste can also be affected by medications. In addition, dental problems can make it difficult or painful to chew food. Loss of appetite can make it difficult to get adequate nutrition, especially when you’re sick or not feeling well. What can you do to be sure you’re getting the nutrients you need? “No single strategy works for everyone,” says Kathleen...

Read the Nutrition Challenges When You're Older or Sick 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

feet
Solutions for 19 types.
MS Overview
Recognizing symptoms.
pregnancy test and calendar
Helping you get pregnant.
build a better butt
How to build a better butt.
lone star tick
How to identify that bite.
woman standing behind curtains
How it affects you.
brain scan with soda
Tips to avoid complications.
row of colored highlighter pens
Tips for living better.
psoriasis
How to keep flares at bay.
woman dreaming
What Do Your Dreams Say About You?
spinal compression fracture
Treatment options.

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.

Thanks!

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

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.