Advance Directives and the Medical Power of Attorney
In the past, it seems we hardly had need for advance directives. As a person approached the end of life, the Doctor would simply discuss the options with the next of kin and a joint decision was reached.
Simple and easy. But today, not so much.
In today’s world, it’s best to spell out with advance directives what you want and what you don’t want. It could make your end–of- life situation easier for you and your family. It may also protect you from a hospital that tries to make personal health decisions for you.
There are a couple of types of advance directives that are popular: the Living Will and the Medical Power of Attorney. Our family has looked at both, and we decided to use the Medical Power of Attorney for our advanced directives. It just seemed to be a better choice for us all the way around. So, let’s look at that.
A Medical Power of Attorney is defined as document that appoints a person (called an agent) to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become unable to do so. This document only goes into effect, if and when you become unable to make medical decisions for yourself.
So, who do you appoint? That’s a good question and one only you can answer. It is your choice, so give it careful consideration. Choose someone who shares your views and values about life. A spouse or other family member is a logical choice. Perhaps a close friend could be an agent.
I have been the agent in a Medical Power of Attorney document for a person I loved. I considered it an honor and privilege to serve in that capacity. I must say that it worked well for our situation. So, I would like to make a few suggestions about choosing your agent.
The person you choose as agent should:
- Agree to serve in this capacity, knowing that it will probably be a stressful situation when their help is needed. They should have some basic understanding of your medical condition and be able to listen and make rational decisions for you without becoming overly emotional.
- Understand your decisions and concerns about end-of-life medical care and be willing to carry out those decisions, even if they do not agree with them.
- Be willing to listen to the concerns of others, but understand you may have to be assertive and stand up in the face of any opposition that may come from well-meaning family or friends. This is so that your wishes are honored.
- Should live nearby so as to be available in an emergency.
When you’re ready to get a Medical Power of Attorney document, you may want to consult with your attorney to help obtain one for you. Your doctor may also be able to help. We used a form that came from the Patients’ Rights Council. Each document comes tailored for your state, and it is available for a small donation. The documents require notarized signatures from each party to be legal and complete.
Once you have the finished document, be sure to have plenty of copies on hand to hand out to doctors, family members, and your agent. This could also be a good opportunity to discuss your wishes with each of them.
Like most people, I don’t know how long I’m going to be around or what the circumstances will be when the end of my life comes. And that’s just the point, I DON’T KNOW. That’s why I’ve chosen a Medical Power of Attorney over a Living Will as my advanced directives. I don’t feel confident or comfortable about the Living Will, which makes choices now for an unknown event in the future. I feel a Living Will makes too many assumptions or guesses about unknown future circumstances and gives the right to make crucial decisions about my life to unknown people.
When considering advance directives, I believe that a Medical Power of Attorney is a better choice for me and my family members. At the end of my life, then I, or someone I love and trust, will make those decisions at that time.