Healthcare Power of Attorney

Serving Waukesha, Elm Grove, New Berlin, Pewaukee, & Lake Country.

Even with the healthiest lifestyle, you cannot fully prevent health emergencies that can lead to incapacity.  However, you can plan and prepare for such a tragedy by having a healthcare power of attorney that designates a healthcare agent to make critical medical decisions in the event of incapacity.  Having a valid healthcare power of attorney allows you to declare your medical wishes in a written document and hand pick an agent to manage your healthcare decisions if you become incapacitated.

What Is The Purpose of A Healthcare Power of Attorney?

A healthcare power of attorney designates an individual who you know, trust and have discussed you wishes with to make medical treatment decisions on your behalf if you become unable to make those decisions on your own.  A power of attorney for healthcare allows you to express your specific wishes in a document that your health care agent can easily understand.  Further, it allows you to hand pick an agent who knows you, knows your wishes and has your best interests at heart.

What Happens If I Become Incapacitated & Do Not Have A Valid Power of Attorney for Healthcare?

Most people assume that a spouse or family member can make health care decisions for an incapacitated loved one.  This assumption is incorrect.  If you have not designated a health care agent, your family will need to initiate a legal process in court to have a guardian appointed.  This process is public, expensive and possible even adversarial if family members disagree about the best course of action.

What is Incapacity?

Incapacity occurs when two physicians or a physician and a psychologist who, after a personal examination, sign a statement which specifically expresses their opinion that a person has a condition that means they are unable to receive and evaluate information effectively or to communicate decisions to such an extent that they lack the capacity to manage their health care decisions.

In situations where a principle becomes incapacitated but remains able to communicate, a healthcare power of attorney drafted by a lawyer can instruct the agent to try and discuss any specific proposed health care decisions with the principle before making a decision.

What Power Is Granted to My Healthcare Attorney

Generally, the power of attorney document outlines the authority of the agent and can be tailored to the individual desires of the principle. Areas of authority can include making decisions concerning a course of medical treatment, withholding a feeding tube, refusing life sustaining procedures and admission to a nursing home for either recuperative care or long-term care.

However, in Wisconsin, healthcare power of attorney forms that are prepared without the assistance of legal counsel are limited to only providing authority to make health care decisions on behalf of the principle.  Other powers that cannot be granted without a healthcare power of attorney drafted by legal counsel are the power to employ and discharge health care professionals, execute documents and provide for religious or spiritual needs.

Who Should I Choose As My Healthcare Agent?

It is important to choose someone you trust to make decisions for you based upon your wishes even if their wishes differ from yours.  Many people do not want their life sustained by artificial means unless they have a reasonable chance of being restored to a physical and mental condition that they deem acceptable.  It is important to choose an agent who has the capacity to make that difficult decision for you.  It is also important to choose someone capable of evaluating information provided by medical professionals and asking the necessary questions to make an informed decision.  Geographic location may also be an important factor in choosing the best person to be your healthcare agent.

I Have a Living Will and a DNR on file.  Do I Really Need a Healthcare Power of Attorney?

A Do Not Resuscitate form is a document prepared by the Department of Health Services which specifically provides care instructions to health care providers responding to emergency calls.

A Living Will or Declaration to Physicians is a form document prepared by the Department of Health Services that provides instructions to health care professionals concerning the use of life sustaining procedures when the individual is diagnosed with a Terminal Condition or is in a Persistent Vegetative State.

These documents merely provide instructions to medical professionals with respect to the matters outlined in the forms.  They do not authorize a person who knows you and you have specifically chosen to make healthcare decisions based upon your stated wishes.  They may also not cover every situation where a medical decision must be made on your behalf.

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