A living will is only valid if you cannot communicate your wishes. A health care power of attorney gives another person (the proxy) the ability to make decisions for you regarding your health care. Unlike a living will, it applies to both end-of-life treatment and other areas of health care. A power of attorney for medical or medical care is a type of advance directive in which you name a person to make decisions for you when you are unable to do so.
In some states, this directive may also be referred to as a permanent power of attorney for health care or power of attorney for health care. It is better to have a separate health care power of attorney document. If you have questions, ask a lawyer or ask a hospital. Your living will and power of attorney for health care are usually extinguished upon death.
This also means that your health care agent, if you appoint one, can only make health care decisions for you while you are alive and disabled. Some states allow your health care directives or agents to remain in effect after your death only for limited purposes, such as the disposal of your remains. If you live at home or in a hospice facility, the document is prominently displayed where emergency personnel or other members of the medical team can easily find you. When you choose your agent, make sure you have chosen someone who can make potentially difficult decisions about your care, who is willing to act as your agent, and is aware of your wishes.
Appointing an Agent You can authorize another person, such as a spouse, child, or friend, to be your “agent” or “proxy” to make decisions on your behalf if you become unable to make informed health care decisions on your own. This form can be signed prior to a hospital stay to make clear your wishes in certain health care situations. In some states, you may be able to give your health care agent the authority to manage your health care right away. Depending on the state, these documents are known as living wills, medical directives, health care powers, or advance health care directives.
An advance directive lets other people know the types of health care you want and don't want in case you can't express your wishes on your own. You must be legally an adult (18 years old in most states) to present a valid document indicating your medical care. You can use your living will to say as much or as little as you want about the type of medical care you want to receive. For example, an advance directive may address psychiatric (mental health) problems, chronic illnesses, and wishes for admission to certain types of health care facilities.
Links to state-specific forms can be found on the websites of several organizations, including the American Bar Association, AARP, and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.