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Advance Directives

Choosing a Medical Power of Attorney

If you decide to choose a medical power of attorney, here are some things to look for:

  • Someone who is not intimidated by medical professionals and is willing to ask challenging questions
  • Someone who can put aside their own feelings about a particular procedure or medical option in order to ensure that your wishes are carried out
  • Someone who understands your wishes about medical options and end-of-life care

You might also want to think about an alternate power of attorney if your first choice is unable to carry out the job.

Once you choose a medical power of attorney, continue talking with him or her on an ongoing basis about possible situations that might occur, and how you would want them handled. Although you cannot anticipate every possibility, the more you talk with this person about your wishes in general, the better they will understand your overall desires about care at the end of your life.

Here are some possibilities you may want to discuss:

  • How do you feel about being fed or hydrated through a tube?
  • Would you want to receive certain treatments, like antibiotics, tube feeding, or mechanical ventilation, for a trial period and have them stopped if a certain time passed with no improvement?
  • How aggressive do you want your doctors to be about the use of CPR should your heart stop?
  • What are you most afraid of regarding treatments you might receive?
  • What are you afraid might happen if you can't make decisions for yourself?
  • Are there circumstances under which you would want more aggressive measures taken to sustain your life, and others under which you wouldn't?


Making It Legal

Whether you write a living will, choose a medical power of attorney, or both, you will need to make those decisions legally binding, in writing. There are state-specific forms for advance directives like these; you do not need an attorney to prepare them.

You can download the forms you need. Each state's form is different, so be sure to use the correct form for your state. You will generally need to have your form witnessed and/or notarized, so take careful note of the requirements for your state.

Once you have completed your advance directive, you should ensure that everyone involved in your care has a copy and is aware of it: your doctor, your hospital, your hospice or palliative care team, important family members, and your attorney if you have one.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on October 18, 2012

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