Most of us have had an experience or two with a serious illness or accident. As you may have found out, hospitals will require a patient to execute one of their health care power of attorney forms if that person has not previously appointed a health care agent. For their own protection, hospitals have their own health care power of attorney form to supply to patients. But in times of an emergency, we may not be able to execute a power of attorney before medical decisions must be made. Without a valid health care power of attorney, critical decisions about your medical care could wind up in the hands of a doctor that does not know you, or with an estranged family member that knows very little about you or your wishes. When in doubt, the hospital will provide medical care that you may not have wanted, or could have afforded.

Choosing the right persons to act as your health care agent is very important. Eventually we all encounter situations will require someone to make a judgment about what medical care we receive. You should choose a person who meets the following criteria:

  • Meets the legal requirements for a health care agent
  • Is not your doctor or a part of your medical care team
  • Is willing and able to discuss with you medical care and end-of-life issues
  • Can be trusted to make decisions that adhere to your wishes and values
  • Can be trusted to be your advocate if there are disagreements about what care you should receive
  • Is familiar with your health insurance options and Medicare/Medicaid coverage and what you can and cannot afford

Health care power of attorney designations will need to be updated from time to time as your agents move away or are no longer available. The form should also be consistent with a living will that sets out your directives for those measures you approve for sustaining life.

Don’t leave your family guessing about your health care needs and preferences, get the Transition Plan’s health care power of attorney.