Justin, someone told me that I need a healthcare power of attorney so my wife can make medical decisions for me if I’m unconscious. Don’t the doctors always let the family members decide what to do? – William
William, I do recommend that all of my clients get a good set of POA documents in place, including those for healthcare. Luckily, in most cases, doctors will allow family members to make healthcare decisions when needed. Legally, however, only the person the doctor is treating can make those decisions for himself. Another person can only make treatment decisions for the patient if she has been delegated to act on the patient’s behalf through either a POA designation or as his court appointed guardian.
One example of when this could be an issue is if the doctor or facility thinks the decision the family member is making is risky and they worry that carrying out the instruction could open them up to liability. They would require a POA, or if there were not one, they’d require your wife be named as your guardian, so someone has legal authority to make that decision.
A more common example is when family members don’t agree on what treatment the patient should receive. In this case, if your wife was not named as your POA, the doctors would not be able to follow her instructions over a disagreeing child, and she would have to get court authority to act for you.
Naming someone in advance to act as your agent can prevent your family members from having to go through the guardianship court process, and it also allows you to name the person of your choosing, instead of your family members fighting in court over who should be the guardian.