As part of their estate plans, many people include advance care directives to help guide their medical providers and families in the event they cannot speak or make choices for themselves. In addition to creating living wills to specify their health care preferences, people may also establish powers of attorney for health care to grant decision-making authority to someone they trust.
As they are entrusting their health care representatives to make their medical and end-of-life decisions, people may benefit from giving their choice careful consideration.
Who can serve as a health care representative?
According to the New Jersey Department of Health, people may give health care power of attorney to their spouse or domestic partner, adult child, a parent or other family member. They may also choose to name a religious or spiritual advisor, friend or another adult to serve as their health care representative.
Unless related, people may not name operators, administrators or employees at health care facilities where they currently reside or receive treatment. Further, they cannot appoint their attending physicians as their health care representatives.
What should principals consider when choosing their health care agents?
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, when choosing a personal representative to make health care-related decisions on their behalf in the event of incapacity, people may consider several factors. They may narrow their search by thinking about their family, friends or others who share their values and views about medical decisions and life. A person may not have their wishes carried out as they would like if they appointed a health care representative who disagrees with their preferences. For example, a pro-life health care power of attorney may struggle with the principal’s wish not to receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
People have no way of knowing if they will face a situation in which they need life-saving medical care but will lack the ability to make decisions about the care they require for themselves. Having an established power of attorney for health care may, however, give them peace of mind that their wishes will get voiced even if they cannot do so themselves.