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Medical Powers Of Attorney

A medical power of attorney is also known as a health-care power of attorney. It’s a document in which a principal appoints an agent to be able to speak for the principal regarding medical treatment if the principal can’t exercise “decisional capacity.” In other words, the agent would make medical decisions for the principal if the principal is not medically capable of doing so. Like the financial power of attorney, the medical power of attorney is a very useful and very powerful document, so it must be drafted with care and only after the principal has devoted a great deal of thought to it.

As powerful a document as it is, the medical power of attorney does not allow the agent to direct the principal’s medical treatment against the principal’s wishes if the principle is still mentally capable of making their own decisions. As long as the principal has this capability, he or she still retains the right to make their own medical decisions about what is best for them.

It is generally wise to have an alternate, or “backup,” agent just in case the original one cannot or will not perform. However, it’s generally not a good idea to have co-agents because they may disagree, and also because medical professionals generally prefer to deal with one person who has decision-making authority.

A common issue that arises with respect to medical powers of attorney is the confidentiality requirements of HIPAA – the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Any medical power of attorney must ensure that it complies with HIPAA requirements.

An agent’s authority to act under a medical power of attorney ends upon the death of the principal; the agent’s resignation, incapacity, inability, or unwillingness to act; or the principal’s revocation of the medical power of attorney.

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