Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lessons Learned - Medical Power Of Attorney and Living Will

If we've talked lately, you already know that my dad spent a week in the hospital last month. Fortunately, he's getting back to normal and recovering nicely from 2 scary heart attacks, but the time he spent in the hospital taught me a few lessons that I needed to learn for my own family. I had not considered - and did not have - a Medical Power of Attorney or a Living Will set up for wither myself or my wife. Both are free, easy and take effect as soon as they are filled out, signed and witnessed by a 3rd party. I learned how important they are and now have it all taken care of. Here are a few things you should know:

1. Medical Durable Power Of Attorney: A Medical Durable Power Of Attorney (MDPOA) is a document you sign naming someone to make your healthcare decisions if and when you are not able to. The person you name is called your healthcare agent. Your MDPOA can become effective immediately, or you can make it become effective only when you are unable to make your own medical decisions.

You can appoint anyone to become your healthcare agent as long as that person is at least 18 years old, mentally competent, and willing to be your agent.Your agent should also be someone who can confidently deal with lots of healthcare providers over what could be a long time. It is preferable to pick an agent who lives in the same state or even city as you do,and it's also a good idea to appoint one or two back-up agents, in case your first choice is not available or able to serve.

Your healthcare agent has all the powers of decision making you do: He or she can consult with healthcare providers, review or get copies of your medical records, and make all necessary healthcare treatment and placement decisions. The agent must act according to his or her understanding of what your wishes and preferences would be. He or she must set aside his or her own values and preferences and do what you would do.

You may put instructions into your MDPOA document to help guide your agent and your healthcare providers so they are better aligned with your wishes. A MDPOA can be printed by clicking here: Printable MDPOA

2. Living Will: A living will is a document you sign telling your doctors to stop or not start life-sustaining treatments if you are in a terminal condition and can't make your own decisions or if you are in a persistent vegetative state (PVS). A terminal condition is one that is incurable or irreversible and for which life-sustaining treatment will only postpone the moment of death. PVS results from a severe brain injury and generally means that the person is alive and may appear to sleep and wake, but is completely unaware of his or her surroundings; cannot speak, drink or eat; and may not be able to feel or react to pain.

A living will only goes into effect 48 hours after two doctors certify that you are in a terminal condition and can't make your own decisions or you are in PVS. Your doctors must make a good effort to notify persona close to you that this certification has been made and they will withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment within two days. You can include a list of persons to be notified in the living will document, with their contact information. You can also include a list of persons authorized to talk to your doctors about your condition and care. These persons are not authorized to make any decisions about your care.

In Colorado, you may also designate in your living will that your doctors should stop or not start any tube feeding and other forms of artificial nutrition and hydration, once the terminal or PVS certification has been made, unless they consider it necessary to provide comfort or relieve pain. You may also include other instructions about your care, but these instructions will only go into effect at the same time as your living will. You can print a Living Will by clicking here: Printable Living Will

No one likes to think about these types of things happening to them, but it is better for you to give it a little thought now while you can clearly state what you would like to happen instead of leaving it up to your family who may not know what your wishes really are. They will already be dealing with a lot of stress, there's no reason you can't make things easier on your family by taking 10 minutes to fill out your MDPOA and Living Will today!

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