Some people use the terms “Living Will” and “Health Care Power of Attorney” interchangeably, but they are two distinct documents.

Living Will

A Living Will is a written document from you describing your end of life wishes. The Living Will tells your loved ones and health care providers what type of care you wish to receive if you are facing an incurable illness or injury and are not able to make your wishes known due to your condition. There are several choices available in a Living Will, but they basically state whether you wish to receive artificial nutrition or hydration even if doctors certify that you will not recover from your condition. You may want to give a copy of your Living Will to your primary care physician as well as your Health Care Power of Attorney, a trusted relative, or friend.

Health Care Power of Attorney

A Health Care Power of Attorney is a form that lets you designate someone to make health care decisions for you when you are unable to make them for yourself due to your medical condition or disability. You can allow your Health Care POA to hire or fire doctors, choose a nursing home for you, and consent to treatment or withhold treatment among other powers. You can even give your health care POA the power to make funeral and burial decisions for you when that time comes.

A Health Care Power of Attorney may be used in conjunction with a Living Will. You can specify that your POA must follow the directives set out in your Living Will. Your Living Will can also leave end of life decisions to the judgment of your Heath Care Power of Attorney based on the circumstances of your case at that time.

Before making a Living Will or designating a Health Care Power of Attorney it is important to discuss your wishes with the person you want to choose. Make sure he or she understands the responsibilities and is willing to carry out your wishes. It is always a good idea to include your family in the discussion so that there is no doubt about what you would want done in the unfortunate event that tough decisions may need to be made.

If you would like further information about these topics contact our office.