Planning Ahead

The Importance of Assigning a Medical Power of Attorney

A health care power of attorney, also known as a health care proxy or an advance health care directive, is a legal document that specifies a person to oversee the medical care of a person if they become incapacitated from an illness and are no longer able to communicate. This surrogate-decision maker is referred to as an agent, and is able to make decisions regarding the health of that person.

What does choosing a health care proxy do?

The health care proxy gives the agent certain powers including agreeing to a surgical operation, terminating life support, or whether to use a feeding tube. Although these forms are widely available online it is sometimes best to hire a legal advocate familiar with the law to ensure that the patient's wishes are fully met.

Health care proxies are not a one-size-fits-all solution, and a legal advocate familiar with the process can help safeguard a person from accidentally omitting certain rights from the agent’s authority. Creating a personalized healthcare proxy ensure that individual moral beliefs and intentions will be honored and accurately represented.

Important Things To Remember:

  • A person may not choose their doctor or the doctor's employees as their agent
  • In Arizona, if a person selects their spouse as their agent and later divorce, their rights as the agent are automatically dissolved (A.R.S. 36-3202)
  • A person may designate an alternative agent in case the primary agent can no longer fulfill their duties
  • Arizona requires the completed document to be notarized or witnessed to make the document valid (A.R.S. 36-3221)

Can a person change their mind about being a medical power of attorney?

A medical power of attorney is by no means an irrevocable document. Should you become reasonably healthy or you revoke the agent's privileges then the document is terminated and considered invalid. If there was a time constraint outlined on the power of attorney then the agent's privileges will naturally expire on that date.

As always, feel free to ask a medical provider for assistance as it is their job to protect the interest of their patients and allow a person some degree of control over medical care. Creating a medical power of attorney will ensure that no matter what the future may hold, decisions regarding any medical treatment and care are in line with the desires and expectations of the patient.

This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.

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