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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

Living Wills Make Life-or-Death Decisions Clearer

Schiavo Case Puts Living Wills in Spotlight

What is a durable power of attorney for health care?

The durable power of attorney for health care is a document that allows patients to specify in advance who should make health care decisions for them should they become unable to make their own health care decisions.

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

The durable power of attorney for health care takes effect anytime 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?

The durable power of attorney for health care document allows a patient to name someone 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 someone 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 given durable power of attorney for health care?

Anyone over the age of 18 can be named except for the doctor (or those employed by the doctor) who is providing care to the patient. The person named has no legal obligation to serve and 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 durable power of attorney be named?

Only one person 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.

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