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A coherent patient basically has the right to make an autonomous decision regarding health care. He or she may decide to refuse or accept any form of medical treatment in the event of an illness or trauma. However, when coherence is absent, the duty is typically passed on to the patient’s immediate family or the health care provider. This is when the concepts of living wills and power of attorney become significant.
For as long as you’re competent and rational, only you can decide what medical intervention to accept. Needless to say, you also have the right to decline treatment based on your personal beliefs and preferences. The usual scenario would include a thorough explanation from your attending physicians as regards to the advantages and disadvantages of a particular medication or procedure. Yet, regardless of your reasons, the health care provider is obligated to grant your refusal to receive medical care.
On the other hand, if you become incapacitated due to a permanent disability or a terminal illness, you may lose the right and ability to decide for your own medical treatment. In this case, the important determinations will have to be made on your behalf. And if you haven’t formulated any instructions, no one will truly know what you would have wanted to happen.
Consequently, the health care team and your immediate family will have to work with professional judgment and presumptions about your condition. So before it’s too late, learn about living wills and power of attorney and how they can make the situation a lot easier for and your family.
A living will is a legally binding document that allows you to express your wishes in writing with regard to medical treatment. It normally contains instructions as to how you want to be taken care of in the event of a debilitating illness or a permanent vegetative condition.
More often than not, two witnesses are required to observe the signing of this legal document. A number of states even necessitate the presence of a Notary Public. Apart from that, the living will should be consistent with the laws of the state on the subject of advance directives.
Since it is a legal document, the health care provider and your immediate family would be compelled to put your wishes into action. On top of that, a living will would certainly guarantee that your decisions about your medical treatment would be respected no matter what happens.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney used in health care enables you – the creator – to name an advocate in the event of your illness or incapacity. This person would serve as your proxy in the decision-making pertaining to your medical care. Of course, your advocate should have full knowledge of what you intend or desire to happen in case you become too debilitated to actually speak or decide for yourself.
Certain qualifications and conditions must be fulfilled before a person can be named as your advocate. For instance, he or she must be of legal age – eighteen years old and above – and must only have your best interest in mind. You may pick your spouse, son, daughter, sibling, a friend, or any trusted person to act as your health care representative.
In case you want your advocate to be able to decline any medical treatment and permit you to pass away peacefully, you must specifically say so in writing.
Although the drafting of a power of attorney is not necessarily required, you have to remember that the legal authority of your representative will only take effect after you have duly signed the said document.
So choose between living wills and power of attorney, and try to determine which of the two would work best for you.