Ruth-Ann E. Toups
What is a Medical Power of Attorney and Why Do I Need One?
A medical power of attorney allows the person of your choice to make medical decisions on your behalf, if you are unable to do so. This document is critically important if you are ever ill or injured. Without a clear plan for who makes decisions on your behalf things can get messy. The person you want making decisions for you might not be the person who is making the decisions.
Many individuals have a medical power of attorney in place already, as hospitals often provide a very basic form upon admission. However, these basic forms are often limited only to that hospital stay, and are lacking several key components that could be needed down the road: such as a successor (or backup) power of attorney and a HIPAA release. Successors are vital to an effective medical power of attorney. While your first named agent should be the best person for the job, there is always a chance that person may not be capable or willing to serve when the time comes. If your first choice dies before you, or at the same time as you, or is physically or mentally not capable of serving, or simply chooses not to serve, it is important to have successors named. A HIPAA release allows your medical power of attorney to receive the information they need to do their job. For these reasons, you should consider asking an attorney to review a medical power of attorney that was provided by a healthcare provider.