Importance of A Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will

We spend so much time during our life searching for the right healthcare providers and healthcare plans that work best for us and for our families. We search for caretakers who will provide the kind of care that we desire and expect them to carry out our wishes. But what happens when we are no longer able to speak for ourselves and voice our healthcare wishes?

This is when a durable health care power of attorney and/or a living will are necessary. Both documents allow you to select and appoint a trusted “agent” to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. These are extremely important legal documents because you are appointing someone else to make healthcare decisions for you when you can no longer do so for yourself.

It is important to note that the durable health care power of attorney and living will do not become effective until you can no longer communicate with your healthcare providers. Additionally, the living will also requires that you are in an end-stage medical condition in order to be effective. And because of the grey area between healthcare decisions and end-of-life decisions, it is recommended that the same agent be appointed to make both decisions.

In most cases married couples choose to appoint their spouse as the trusted agent. Nonetheless, it is wise to consider appointing a 1st and 2nd alternate trusted agent.

Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney


A durable healthcare power of attorney grants to your agent the power to make decisions regarding your healthcare treatment. Without appointing an agent, an individual who becomes unconscious or incompetent in some way will be left subject to the medical standards of care for whatever the giving medical situation. For example, this can add additional stress to the children of a single parent who is no longer able to communicate with their doctors.

Doctors are required to maintain the patient’s information under privacy laws despite the patient being their parent. It is possible that your children may disagree with the healthcare provided to you in such a condition and their only recourse is to turn to the courts. And no one wants to add the unnecessary costs and stress of litigation to their loved ones especially when there is an alternative.

This is why it is best to appoint a healthcare agent. A properly drafted durable healthcare power of attorney will contain language to satisfy the privacy concerns of healthcare providers and medical insurance companies. Such a document will enable your agent to gain access to your protected health information and determine from your doctor’s diagnosis what the best course of treatment is for you.


Living Will


A living will allows you to tell your agent whether you want to pursue aggressive medical treatment or if you prefer to allow yourself to pass away and be kept comfortable through the process. It is a document personalized to reflect the your personal wishes regarding end-of-life medical decisions. And as we discussed above, a living will is only effective once you are no longer able to communicate with your healthcare providers and you are in an end-stage medical condition.

Some people incorrectly fear that by having a living will that they will not receive treatment for an illness or injuries. But legally you will continue to be treated to the fullest extent possible until your doctor and agent agree that you are not going to recover and are in an end-stage medical condition. At that point, your living will becomes effective and your doctor and agent will turn to your living will’s directives to determine your next steps for care.


Let’s Get Planning Today!


Do not put your family in a helpless position and leave your medical health up to the courts to decide. If you are ready to take the next step and create a plan to protect your future then contact us today at SutterWilliams Law, LLC.

More information here on the Importance of A Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will from an article by the Mayo Clinic.