When Do I Need a Medical Power of Attorney in Washington State?

If you are searching for estate planning needs, you will likely come across the concept of a “Medical Power of Attorney.”

We wrote this article to help you understand what a medical power of attorney is, when you would need one, and how you would obtain one. 

What is a Medical Power of Attorney

A medical power of attorney may also be known as an advance care directive.  The medical power of attorney is a legal document in which you choose a person you trust (an agent) to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so.  You can set up your power of attorney to state when and in what situations you want it to become effective.  For instance, it can be set up only to become effective after you have been deemed unable to make decisions on your own by your medical provider, or you may set it up to be more broadly applied to your life without needing any particular triggers to occur first.

In your medical power of attorney, you will be able to specify what you want your agent to be able to do on your behalf, including:

  • Sign medical documents on your behalf
  • Giving, withholding, or withdrawing informed consent including medical and surgical treatments
  • Decide if you receive life-prolonging interventions or psychiatric treatment
  • Determine if you are going to go to a nursing home, have hospitalization, or treatment in a nursing home or your own home
  • Decide measures for pain relief
  • Have access and control of your medical records

*When you choose an agent, make sure it is someone you can trust to follow your wishes.  Discuss your wishes with them and leave specific instructions in your medical power of attorney. 

It is also a good idea to appoint an alternate agent in case your agent is unable to make your health care decisions or is unavailable.

When You Need a Medical Power of Attorney

You need a medical power of attorney if you are unable to make your own decisions, or if you fear that this type of situation could or might occur.  Some things that can cause you to be unable to make your own decisions are:

  • Alzheimers or dementia
  • Brain injury
  • Severe illness
  • Coma
  • Age
  • Unconsciousness from an accident
  • Under anesthesia and cannot consent to a more extensive procedure
  • An Unforeseen Accident

You can guess at this point that it is a good idea and precaution to have a medical power of attorney even if you are young, healthy, and not expecting any major medical issues.  If there is an accident that leaves you incapacitated, and you do not have a power of attorney, your care decisions could be left up to the judgment of someone who does not know you, your values, or your wishes at all.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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