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Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

Frequently Asked Questions About Advanced Directives

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When does a durable power of attorney for health care take effect?

The durable power of attorney for health care takes effect any time the patient loses the ability to make his or her own health care decisions. Unlike the living will, the patient does not need to be terminally ill or suffering from an irreversible coma.

What treatments are covered under a durable power of attorney for health care?

The durable power of attorney for health care document allows a person to name an agent or attorney-in-fact with broad or specific powers to provide consent or refusal for any type of health care. Durable powers of attorney for health care are very flexible documents, allowing both the naming of an agent to make decisions for the patient when the patient is unable to do so, and the specification of the treatments that the patient wants or does not want to receive.

Who can be named as an agent under a durable power of attorney for health care?

Anyone over age 18 can be named as the agent, except for the doctor (or those employed by the doctor) who is providing care to the patient. The agent named has no legal obligation to serve and the agent is not responsible for the financial costs associated with treatment.

Who can complete a durable power of attorney for health care?

Any adult of sound mind may complete a durable power of attorney for health care. Living wills and durable powers of attorney for health care are often prepared without the assistance of lawyers by using standard forms. The durable power of attorney for health care document must be witnessed by two adults or notarized. Such documents and procedures vary by state.

Can more than one agent be named under a durable power of attorney for health care?

Only one agent can serve at a time, but other individuals can be named as successor agents if the first individual named as the agent is not able or is unwilling to serve.

Can a durable power of attorney for health care be revoked?

The patient can revoke a durable power of attorney for health care at any time and in any manner by simply tearing up the durable power of attorney for health care document, expressing orally to witnesses the desire to revoke the document, or in writing. Health care professionals who witness such revocations should document them in the medical record.

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