Can the Hospital Authorize Treatment Without My Consent when I Am My Husbandís POA for Healthcare?


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Many individuals have a power of attorney document drafted on their behalf. This document is often considered a fundamental cornerstone of an effective estate plan. This document must usually be honored unless the patient has provided instructions to the contrary.

Power of Attorney for Healthcare

A power of attorney for healthcare, or healthcare proxy, is a legal designation by which one person, the principal, decides the extent that another person, the agent, can make decisions for him or her concerning healthcare. The state may have a standardized form that people are encouraged to use and that includes all of the necessary language to make the power of attorney for healthcare designation effective. Some states combine the power of attorney for healthcare and financial power of attorney together under one document in which the listed agent would be able to make both financial and medical decisions on behalf of the agent. A person can generally name anyone who he or she desires as the power of attorney for healthcare so long as the person is at least 18 years old in most states. If the power of attorney for healthcare is made durable, this means that it will remain in place even if the individual is later found to be incapacitated.

Powers Designated

A power of attorney for healthcare often provides the listed agent with a number of key rights. These rights often include giving the agent the ability to decide whether the patient will be admitted to a hospital, nursing home, assisted living facility, rehabilitation center, medical office or other medical treatment sites. Additionally, the power of attorney often gives the agent the ability to agree to provide the patient with certain medication or to refuse to administer medication.

The power of attorney for healthcare may also provide the agent the ability to hire or terminate medical providers and to establish contracts with medical providers. Additionally, the power of attorney for healthcare designation may give the power of attorney for healthcare the ability to refuse treatment to the patient. It may also allow the agent to access medical records and consult with the patientís medical providers in order to make informed medical decisions on behalf of the principal.

Advance Directives

Advance directives or living wills may provide instructions that are contradictory to what the power of attorney for healthcare instructs. These documents typically pertain to situations in which the patient is terminal or permanently unconscious. The advance directive explains the types of medical treatments that the patient wants to receive under dire circumstances and which instructions he or she does not want to receive. This may include opting between being placed on ventilation support, being attached to feeding tubes, receiving pain medication and being given IV fluids to keep the person alive even if his or her quality of life is low. These directives are different than a Do Not Resuscitate Order, which is focused on one type of medical procedure and may not require the situation to be as dire as those traditionally involved with advance directives.
Verbal Instructions

Even if a person has a living will and a power of attorney for healthcare in place, he or she may still be able to override both of these documents so long as he or she has legal capacity to make these decisions. The hospital may ask him or her about the types of treatment he or she wants to receive and record this information in his or her medical records. Typically, a power of attorney for healthcare designation cannot trump a patientís own wishes, so long as the individual has the requisite capacity to make these decisions.

Guardianship

In some situations, a judge decides that an individual does not have legal capacity and that another person needs to make decisions on behalf of the individual. If this occurs, a court may appoint another person the guardian over the person and this individual may receive the right to make healthcare decisions and other decisions on behalf of the patient.

Legal Assistance

Individuals who are concerned about who will be able to make decisions on their behalf in the event that they cannot make healthcare decisions on their own behalf may wish to contact an estate planning lawyer. He or she can explain the utility of various legal documents and how they differ from one another. After talking to an individual about his or her wishes and how he or she wants to proceed, he or she may advise which documents are necessary under the circumstances.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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