An unexpected accident or medical/health emergency can happen to anyone at any anytime. Whether due to an illness or as a result of an unexpected circumstance, situations occur every day which render persons of all ages incapacitated and unable to make decisions for their own health care. Medical Powers of Attorney (also known as Healthcare Directives) are documents that allow you to grant a person(s) you trust the legal authority to make medical decisions for you, access your medical records, and carry out your instructions with regard to the types of medical treatment acceptable to you in an end of life care situation.
The documents that makeup these Directives consist a Designation of Health Care Surrogate document which allow the person(s) you designated to make medical decisions for you and should include HIPPAA release language (HIPPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Protection Act which is a federal law that protects the privacy of a person’s medical records) unless a free-standing HIPPAA release document is also being executed, and, a Living Will document which includes the types of medical treatment you would or would not accept in the event of terminal, end-stage or persistent vegetative state condition and which can also include anatomical gift provisions. Since tragedy does not discriminate and there is rarely advance warning about when a person will become incapacitated, obtaining these Directives as soon as possible is critical since without them, you would have no control over who will be the person tasked with making life and death decision on your behalf during a time of incapacity; this could potentially mean that someone you don’t trust or a guardian appointed by the Court may be appointed to make critical decisions on your behalf.
In addition, anyone who is the parent or guardian of a minor child, should execute a separate Designation of Health Care Surrogate for your child, in order to authorize another adult to make medical decisions on behalf of your child in the event you (and anyone else with legal authority over your minor child) should become unable to make such decisions. Keep in mind that once your child becomes a legal adult, your adult child should also execute his or her own Medical Powers of Attorney in order to designate a person(s) which could be you, the authority to make medical decisions on their behalf in the event of their incapacity. Therefore, whether an adult child goes off to college, takes off for a gap year, or continues to reside at home, adult children also need Advance Medical Directives in order for another person, including a parent, to make immediate health care decisions on their behalf in the event of an unforeseen circumstance and incapacity.