Drafting a health care power of attorney allows individuals in Pennsylvania and around the country to ensure that they receive medical treatment in accordance with their wishes if they become incapable of making these decisions for themselves. Many people believe that these documents only give a trusted person the authority to determine when treatment should cease in end-of-life situations, but that is not the case. Medical powers of attorney can cover a wide variety of issues including the medical facilities and doctors that should provide care and a list of treatments that should not be administered.
Choosing an agent
Under Pennsylvania estate planning law, the person who is authorized to make important medical decisions is called an agent. It is always a good idea to name a successor agent just in case this person passes away or becomes incapacitated. The powers given to an agent can be limited by a power of attorney’s language, but doing this could defeat the purpose of drafting the document in the first place. Agents should be chosen carefully based on their responsibility and ability to make pragmatic decisions. Close family members who could react emotionally may not be wise choices as they could call for continuing treatment that is medically unwise and would drain the estate of resources.
Health care powers of attorney in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, a health care power of attorney must be signed in front of two witnesses who are 18 years of age or older. The agent named in the power of attorney cannot be one of the principal’s health care providers. The power of attorney goes into effect when a doctor determines that the principal is incapacitated. If the condition is terminal, two doctors must make this determination. Pennsylvania residents can also draft living wills that provide instructions for health care providers should they become incapacitated but do not name an agent to make decisions on their behalf.
Reviewing health care directives
Experienced estate planning attorneys may encourage their clients to draft financial and health care powers of attorney and living will to ensure that their wishes are clear. Attorneys could also suggest reviewing these documents periodically and making revisions in light of changes in circumstances and advances in medical science and technology.