Having a healthcare power of attorney (also known as a healthcare proxy or healthcare directive) is important for several reasons:
- Decision-making authority: A healthcare power of attorney grants someone you trust the legal authority to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated or unable to communicate your wishes. This ensures that your healthcare preferences are respected and that someone you choose is advocating for your best interests.
- Personalized healthcare decisions: By appointing a healthcare power of attorney, you can ensure that medical decisions align with your personal beliefs, values, and preferences. The person you choose can make decisions based on their knowledge of your wishes, rather than relying on guesswork or burdening family members with difficult choices.
- Continuity of care: Having a designated healthcare power of attorney helps to maintain continuity of care. They can work closely with your healthcare providers, understand your medical history, and make informed decisions that align with your overall treatment plan. This can be especially crucial in complex or long-term medical situations.
- Legal protection: A healthcare power of attorney provides legal protection by clearly outlining who has the authority to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. Without a designated representative, decisions may be left to family members, causing potential conflicts or delays in treatment.
- Relieving family burden: Having a healthcare power of attorney in place can help alleviate the burden on your family members during stressful and emotional times. It removes the uncertainty and potential disagreements among family members about the appropriate course of action.
- Emergency situations: In emergency situations where immediate decisions are required, having a healthcare power of attorney ensures that someone is authorized to make timely decisions on your behalf. This can be especially critical if you're unable to provide consent due to a sudden illness or accident.
It's important to choose someone you trust implicitly as your healthcare power of attorney, and to discuss your wishes and preferences with them in advance. It's also recommended to consult with an attorney or legal professional to ensure that the document is properly drafted and complies with local laws and regulations. Once completed, you could have on file with your doctor and hospital and check in advance that they will accept your documents. A sample document provided by Kaiser is attached.