HEALTHCARE POWER OF ATTORNEY
WHAT IS A HEALTHCARE POWER OF ATTORNEY?
A legal document that permits an individual (the principal) to appoint another person (the agent) to make medical (and life-support) decisions on his/her behalf. This is a very important document because individuals who want to be able to help their parents or others who may no longer be able to care for themselves will have a much more difficult time being able to work through the treatment process of medical facilities if they do not have the POA to make healthcare decisions. It puts a lot of stress on those who want to help and cannot. This can often arise in situations where the patient does not have someone who is authorized to make medical decisions but could have been authorized through a medical POA. That said, Arizona State Law does have a list of people who are authorized by relation when a POA is not appointed by the individual. See A.R.S. § 36-3231.
Typically, you cannot choose someone under the age of 18 to be your agent when it comes to healthcare decisions. Nor can you choose your healthcare provider or an employee of your healthcare provider. Once you choose an agent to make your healthcare decisions, it is important to talk with them about your choice to choose them as your agent for healthcare power of attorney. In order for your agent to make decisions according to your wishes, you will want to speak with them about what you want and don't want. You may give them a copy of your living will, so they are familiar with your advanced directives. You should also consider telling family members and close friends who you chose as your healthcare power of attorney, so when the time for those types of decisions comes, your friends and family members are already aware of who will be in charge of the decision making.
The amount of authority you give to your agent is up to you as the principal, but principals typically give the broadest authority possible to their agent to make all healthcare decisions when they no longer have capacity to do so. Such decisions include the use of life sustaining treatments like artificial nutrition and hydration, palliative care and DNR, life support decisions. If you want to have limitations for your healthcare power of attorney, then those limitations should be made clear in the healthcare power of attorney document.
Everyone has things that are most important to them, beliefs they have developed over their lifetime and preferences that stem from what's important to them and their belief system. You may ask yourself what are the things that are most important to you when it comes to your physical and mental well being. You may consider your fears about the end of life, what you believe in a spiritual sense and what you may want to occur according to those beliefs.
You may consider whether you want to be sedated if it were necessary to control pain that you could experience due to advanced illness or injury even if such sedation were to make you drowsy and sleepy. You may want to consider whether you want a hospice team involved in your care or any kind of palliative care. There are many other things to consider when it comes to end of life decisions. That's why it's important to make sure you have an estate plan in place with a durable power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, mental health power of attorney, wills and trusts documentation and a living will with advanced directives. These documents provide peace of mind and make the end of life decisions for family members much more peaceful and allows for family members and friends to have a more healthy process of mourning when the time comes.