Why is a power of attorney and health care directive important?

When a person is put in charge of another person's health care, the person is called the patient advocate and has power of attorney. That means that the individual has a right to make health care decisions on behalf of the patient, who may be a parent, spouse, friend or other person.

When a health care directive is in place, you're able to specify how you want to be treated in a variety of emergency situations. For example, an elderly person might say he or she doesn't want to be revived if he or she goes into cardiac arrest. Or, a young mother may say she wants everything possible done to keep her alive.

Do medical providers have to listen to health care directives and your power of attorney if you can't make decisions on your own?

On the whole, health care providers do have to comply with your wishes as long as they have been recorded. Your legal agent can make additional decisions for you, and the medical provider should abide by those decisions as well.

There are a few exceptions to the rule, though. For example, if the doctor or medical provider can't perform a treatment in good conscience, he or she may not follow through on the health care directive. If the directive goes against hospital policies or includes decisions that would violate health care standards or provide ineffective care, the hospital or provider can also opt not to honor the directive.

If a doctor or health care provider is going to ignore the wishes of the directive, he or she must inform your legal advocate or you if you are able to make decisions on your own at that time. If he or she fails to do so, you may be able to file a lawsuit, or your family can in your stead.

Source: FindLaw, "Health Care Directives: Is there a Duty to Follow Them?," accessed Jan. 13, 2017

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