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Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare Decisions

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 4, 2024.

What is a durable power of attorney for healthcare?

A durable power of attorney for healthcare (DPAHC) is a type of written legal document called a medical advance directive. It allows another person to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. This person is called a healthcare agent. Your healthcare agent speaks for you if you are too sick or injured to make your wishes known.

Why may I want to have a DPAHC?

If you are in the hospital, you or your family will be asked if you have any advance directives, such as a DPAHC. If you do not, your healthcare providers may give you treatments you do not want. You could live for months or years with these treatments, but not be conscious or aware. If you have a DPAHC, your agent will tell your healthcare providers which treatments you want.

What types of decisions may my healthcare agent make for me?

Your agent can get information from any of your healthcare providers to help make decisions about your treatment. Your agent can talk about treatments with your healthcare providers and ask for second opinions. Your agent can transfer your care to another healthcare provider or healthcare facility, such as a hospital or a skilled nursing home. Your agent makes decisions based on the information you put in your DPAHC. If your agent is not sure of your wishes, he or she will do what he or she thinks is best for you. You may want to limit what your agent can decide for you. Make sure your healthcare agent and healthcare providers know about these limits.

When does a DPAHC take effect?

Your DPAHC takes effect when you can no longer let healthcare providers know what care you want. This may happen if you are unconscious (cannot be awakened). It may happen if you are not able to think clearly or cannot communicate to others what you want. Depending on your state's laws, 1 or 2 doctors must decide that you can no longer make medical decisions, even if you can communicate with your healthcare providers.

How do I choose my healthcare agent?

Healthcare agents are often family members or close friends. You must trust your healthcare agent to understand the care you want and to respect your wishes. Choose an agent you trust to follow your wishes, even if your wishes differ from his or hers. Your agent must be at least 18 years old. He or she should be willing to stand up for what you want. Try to choose someone who lives nearby and will be around for a long time. Most states do not allow your doctor or other healthcare providers to be your healthcare agent, unless they are related to you.

What do I need to think about when I prepare my DPAHC?

Ask your healthcare provider for worksheets or forms to help you write your DPAHC. These will help you to prepare written instructions for your medical and end-of-life care. Think about the situations where you may want to limit your medical treatments. Tell healthcare providers your wishes if you have a healthcare problem, such as cancer or lung disease. Even if you are not sick, accidents or injuries can cause severe brain injuries. You will want healthcare providers to know your wishes if you are injured. Some treatments will keep you alive, even if you will not get better. Treatment options include the following:

In what situations may I want to limit treatment?

Think about the following situations. Then think about the treatment you would want if there is little chance you will get better:

Do DPAHC forms allow me to express my values, beliefs, and quality of life preferences?

Many DPAHC forms give you a place to describe what you value and believe about your life. Think about your answers to questions like these:

Where can I get a DPAHC form?

Your hospital and healthcare providers should have the forms or worksheets that are used for your state. Each state has rules for DPAHC and other advanced directives. Most states allow advanced directives prepared in one state to be used in another state. You may still want to create DPAHC for more than one state if you travel often or spend time in another state.

How do I prepare a DPAHC?

What are the legal requirements for signatures on a DPAHC?

You do not need a lawyer to write a DPAHC, but it must follow the rules of your state. The legal requirements may include the following:

How do I make sure that my wishes are known?

When should I review my DPAHC?

You can always change or cancel your DPAHC. After you make changes, give new copies to your healthcare agent and your healthcare providers. Review your DPAHC whenever one of the following occurs:

Further information

This information is not legal advice. Contact the following for more information:

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about the DPAHC and how it is used. You can then discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers. Work with them to decide what care will be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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