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Health Care Powers of Attorney


A Health Care Power of Attorney is a legal document in which one person (called the "Principal) grants authority to another person (called the "Agent") to make health care decisions for the Principal in the event the Principal cannot make his/her own health care decisions. 


A Health Care POA also may contain the Principal's directives with regard to the withholding or termination of life-support.  Generally, however, such life-support directives are contained in a separate document called a Living Will. 


Key Decisions

There are 2 key decisions that you must make when creating a Health Care Power of Attorney: 

1) Who is authorized to make the determination that you are not capable of making your own health care decisions?  Typically the person authorized to make this determination is your family physician or a treating physician.  However, there's no reason why family members or close friends cannot participate in this decision or have sole authority to decide.


2) Who will make your health care decisions after it's been determined that you cannot?  In making this decision you should consider the following with regard to your particular family situation:


  • Is it appropriate to appoint more than one individual, and if so, how many?

  • If you appoint two individuals, is agreement between them required or can they act independently of each other?

  • If more than 2, is unanimous agreement required or does the majority decide?

While choosing someone with a medical background to make your health care decisions might be appropriate, what's more important is to choose someone who has the ability to ask your physicians the right questions and make well-reasoned decisions.

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