A medical power of attorney or health POA, is a legal document that allows individuals in high health-risk condition to appoint a trusted person to make tough healthcare decision on their behalf. Its usage is restricted to making medical decisions only and not financial decisions.
Triggers of Medical POA
Although medical POA can allow the designated person to start making healthcare decisions immediately, usually that’s not what the intent is. In most cases, medial POA’s are written to come into effect only when some health-related event takes place. In the situation, the grantor is no longer capable of making decisions about his health or is incapable of communicating it.
As per the medical power of attorney, the designate agent can decide whether life support services should be continued or not. He can decide on the most suitable treatment plant and also choose which doctors or specialist should be used.
Medical POA, which executes upon the occurrence of triggering health-related event, need attestation of doctor that the medical event has occurred. Once the POA becomes effective, it will remain effective until the death of the grantor. However, if the triggering event has reversed and the grantor can take the decisions on own, the POA becomes ineffective.
Limitations of Medical POA
Some decisions can’t be taken using the medical POA. For instance, lobotomy (neurosurgery for mental disorders), electroconvulsive therapy (shock treatment) can’t be decided by the agent using the medical POA. Furthermore, the decision-maker or the agent can’t refuse the comfort care (special care or treatment intended to minimize the pain of a dying person).
Parties Involved in Creation
The creation of medical power of attorney Virginia involves a few parties to make it legally binding. But others are involved too.
- Principal or Grantor. He is the individual giving the power to make his healthcare decision using the POA. In most cases, the principal is an elderly individual who is in a high health-risk situation.
- Agent. He is the person who gets the power to make the decision. In other terminology, he is also called as ‘attorney-in-fact’. Any adult can become the agent. Mostly, agent is the adult child who takes responsibility. However, other relatives, siblings, grandchildren can also become an agent. More than one agent can be there in the medical POA.
- Alternate Agent. What is the agent unwilling or unable to take responsibility when required? It’s when a successor agent comes ahead to take responsibility. However, the principal may or may not choose to have one.
- Notary. Most states, including Virginia, demand that the medical POA is signed and authorized by the notary public to be a binding legal document.
- Doctor. If the principal’s competence is questionable, the doctor’s opinion is required to attest that the individual is, in fact, mentally competent while entering the agreement. It’s of relevance to patients of Alzheimer.
- Conservator. What if a power of attorney doesn’t exist and the person is incompetent to make decisions? The court appoints a ‘conservator’ in such a situation who is also referred to as court-appointed guardian.
Who Needs a Medical POA?
- Every individual who is in a high health risk situation should have a medical POA. In the event of medical emergencies, the agent can make essential life-saving decisions. In the absence of medical POA, the decision goes to court, which can cause delays. Then healthcare provider or surrogate will then decide based on the advice of attending physician.
- The medical POA should be created when the individual is in sound mental and physical state.
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