When it comes to making decisions about your medical care, it's important to have a plan in place in case you are ever unable to make those decisions yourself. A power of attorney for medical or medical care is a type of advance directive that allows you to name a person to make decisions for you if you are ever incapacitated. This directive may also be referred to as a permanent power of attorney for health care or power of attorney for health care. In order to ensure that you get the kind of medical care you want if you are ever incapacitated, there are two fundamental documents that must be executed during your lifetime.
The first is commonly called a living will, advance directive or appointment of patient advocate, or something similar. This document allows you to instruct doctors and healthcare providers about the type of medical care you want and don't want if you are unable to report them yourself. The second document states who has a medical power of attorney for their health care decisions, so that they can answer questions that their living will does not address. This document, also known as a permanent power of attorney, gives your agent the authority to take action on your behalf and carry out your instructions for medical care, without delays in court proceedings.
Depending on your status, the person you give this power of attorney may be referred to as your agent, proxy, de facto attorney, patient advocate or substitute. Each state has its own advance directive form, which gives you questions to answer and specific things you can choose to accept or decline. You can usually get advance directive forms from your state's bar association or from Caring Connection (part of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization). You can also add additional information about your wishes if the form doesn't include everything you're worried about.
Before a medical power of attorney can be used to guide medical decisions, a person's doctor must certify that the person cannot make their own medical decisions. Videos are not a substitute for advance directives, but they may be helpful to your health care proxy and loved ones. Once you choose a medical power of attorney, continue to talk to them on an ongoing basis about possible situations that could occur and how you would like them to be handled. Even though you state your wishes in your living will, those documents can never cover all circumstances, and the person who has a permanent power of attorney for health care can make decisions that are not covered by your living will.
It's important to make sure that these legally binding decisions are in writing and that you give a copy of the documents to all your doctors, your permanent power of attorney agent, and your family or friends. The forms included on the Florida Health Care Administration Advance Directives website (scroll down to find downloadable forms) have been approved by the Florida Supreme Court. Choosing the right legal document for your needs is essential and an estate planning lawyer can help. With an advance directive in place, you can rest assured knowing that if you ever become incapacitated, someone will be able to make decisions on your behalf according to your wishes.