Last month I discussed in detail Living Will documents which are used to insure the rights and desires of terminally ill or comatose individuals are honored. This month I will focus on Powers of Attorney for Health Care Decisions and how they work with Living Wills. If a person is unable to make health care decisions and does not have a Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions, it is necessary to file a Petition for Appointment of Guardian with the Iowa District Court to appoint a Guardian to make health care decisions and decisions as to where the individual should reside. Such process can be expensive and time consuming. A Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions avoids the need to file a Petition for Guardianship by designating individuals to make health care decisions. A Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions becomes effective when an individual is unable, in the judgment of his attending physician, to make health care decisions. Health care is defined to mean any care, treatment, service, or procedure to maintain, diagnose, or treat an individual’s physical or mental condition. “Health Care” does not include the provision of nutrition or hydration except when they are required to be provided parenterally or through intubation. “Health care decisions” mean the consent, refusal to consent or withdraw of consent to any items of health care.
The Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions allows you to appoint an individual or group of individuals to act on your behalf. In addition, if the individual is unable to act, the document allows you to appoint alternate individuals to act on your behalf. I am hesitant to appoint two individuals to act jointly as the primary attorney-in-fact for the reason that no decisions can be made in the event both individuals disagree on the course of action to be taken.
The Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions grants the attorney-in-fact the power to make decisions regarding life sustaining procedures. In order to lessen the burden on the individual acting as the attorney-in-fact, I recommend that clients execute a Living Will setting out their desires regarding life sustaining procedures. I typically provide a statement in the Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions indicating that the attorney-in-fact is required to follow the individual’s desires regarding life sustaining procedures as set forth in said individual’s Living Will.
The Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions can be revoked at any time and in any manner by which the individual is able to communicate the intent to revoke, without regard to the mental or physical condition of the individual. The revocation may be oral or written.
If you would like to discuss the Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions in more detail, please contact our office.
Written by: James D. Beatty