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Do I Need a Healthcare Power of Attorney?

Nicole Madison
Updated May 17, 2024
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You need a healthcare power of attorney if you want to direct another party to make health-related decisions for you in the event that you become incapacitated in the future and are unable to make your own healthcare choices. This document may be important as you grow older, but it can provide a sense of security no matter what your age. Depending on your needs or desires, you can have this document worded to allow a person to make only certain healthcare decisions on your behalf or to allow him to make all of your healthcare decisions in the event that you cannot.

There are various types of powers of attorney you may create to give another person authority over some part of your life. As the name suggests, a healthcare power of attorney is used to give another person the power to make healthcare decisions for you if you are incapacitated and cannot do so on your own. For example, you may use this document to have another person choose treatment options for you or decide whether you need to enter a nursing home. As the creator of a healthcare power of attorney, you have the ultimate say in how much authority a person has over your medical decisions. You may give him the authority to make some of your medical decisions but not others, or you may give him complete authority over your healthcare needs.

It is important to note that a healthcare power of attorney doesn’t go into effect unless you become incapacitated. In most jurisdictions, it is necessary to have proof of this incapacitation as well. For example, the person you designate your decision maker won’t have the authority to make decisions for you based only on his feeling that you are incapacitated. Instead, many jurisdictions require two doctors or a doctor and a psychologist to evaluate you and agree that you cannot make decisions on your own.

Often, people are confused about the difference between a living will and a healthcare power of attorney. A living will, however, is intended to direct your doctors in the event that you would need life-sustaining treatment to prolong your life. It is used in the event you are incapacitated and have a life-threatening illness or injury. A living will, unlike a healthcare power of attorney, does not designate a person you trust to make these decisions for you.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGEEK writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

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Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGEEK writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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