A Medical Power of Attorney gives specific instructions, prepared in advance, that are intended to direct medical care for an individual if he or she becomes unable to do so in the future. Plainly speaking, a Medical Power of Attorney is made in anticipation of a medical emergency. If you are in an accident or suffer a disease or disorder that may leave you incapable of making a sound medical decision, a Medical Power of Attorney permits you to choose in advance who will represent and enforce your interests. The person authorizing the other to act on his behalf is the "principal" and the one authorized to act is the "agent".
A Medical Power of Attorney should be given to someone whom you trust
unreservedly; this is an individual who will be making decisions for you
when you are incapacitated, even if you are not on life support or
terminally ill. However, an agent does not have the authority to act
until the principal's attending physician certifies in writing that the
principal is incompetent.
A Medical Power of Attorney is not legally effective unless the
principal signs a disclosure statement that he or she has read and
understood the contents before signing the document. If the principal is
physically unable to sign, another person may sign the document in his
or her presence and at his or her directive. Two qualified witnesses,
who are competent adults, must witness the procedure. At least one of
them must not be related to the principal, the principal's attending
physician or the attending physician's employee, entitled to a part of
the principal's estate, an individual who has a claim against the
principal's estate, or an officer, director, partner or business office
employee of the healthcare facility.
An individual may revoke the Medical Power of Attorney by notifying
either the agent or the principal's health care provider of his or her
intent to revoke the document. This revocation will take place
regardless of the principal's capability to make sound medical
judgments. Further, if the principal executes a later Medical Power of
Attorney, then all prior ones are revoked. If the principal designates
his or her spouse to be the agent, a divorce revokes the Medical Power
An agent, acting in good faith, will not incur criminal or civil
liability for a medical decision made under a Medical Power of Attorney.
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