Healthcare Power Of Attorney

A healthcare power of attorney document designates a person to make medical decisions on your behalf if you can’t make them for yourself.   Deciding who this person will be is an important decision, and the choice concerning whom you want to assume this responsibility should be carefully considered.  This person may be called upon to decide if it would be in your best interests to put you on life support systems to keep you alive or to let nature take its course.    Often a Healthcare Power Of Attorney is combined with the Living Will, a document that lets people state their own wishes for end-of-life medical care, in case they become unable to communicate their decisions

An Internet search will quickly yield many sources for information both Healthcare Power Of Attorney and Living Will legal documents.

For non-elder orphans, they can likely conjure up some candidates from their family or friends, but for us it might be a challenge to convince someone to accept this important role.  Although I accepted the responsibility for both of my parents, fortunately I was never required to invoke it.  The circumstances of their passing were predictable.

The question then arises as to how you would respond if someone were to ask you if you agree to be named in their Healthcare Power Of Attorney.  If you are a family member, you are probably not left with a choice other than to agree.  However without a connection would you be willing to take on that responsibility?  For me, this would not be a decision that I would embrace.  My first question might be “Isn’t there someone else who could do this?”  The importance of the responsibilities of this role cannot be over exaggerated.  It could be a matter of life or death.

Since the circumstance where these decisions are made often arise very suddenly, I suggest that it would be extremely difficult to offer one by listening to a physician explain the circumstances and then ask someone on a long distance phone call to make it.  I’m not sure if standing by the person’s bed side and holding their hand would make it any easier.

In wills created for disposition of property, as we will address eventually, it is possible to seek out a lawyer or other entity to assume the role of executor or trustee, but I have yet to discover one that would assume the responsibility to decide whether a person who is likely ,for the most part, if not completely unknown to them.  The default decision would of course be to continue life support in the absence of a living will.

At this stage in our existence, our financial affairs should be inconsequential and I have to hope that we have not designed them in way that would permit anyone to benefit as a result of a decision as to whether we live or we die.

How are you dealing with this critical decision?

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