Medical Power of Attorney: Information and Answers
This article provides information about Medical Powers of Attorney. Specifically, it discusses what a medical power of attorney is, what it can do, and more. This article was written by Texas Legal Service Center's Legal Hotline for Texans.
A Medical Power of Attorney is a document signed by a competent adult giving an agent, a trusted person, the authority to make health care and medical decisions when the principal (the person signing the Medical Power of Attorney) is no longer able to make them and a doctor so certifies.
A Medical Power of Attorney is one kind of durable power of attorney. A Medical Power of Attorney gives your agent the right to make health care decisions for you. A general durable power of attorney usually does not give the person the right to make decisions about health care. A general durable power of attorney usually serves a different purpose.
Your agent cannot make medical decisions for you unless you cannot make decisions for yourself. Your doctor must say, in writing, that you cannot make your own health care decisions. The doctor’s certification goes in your medical file.
Your agent can only make medical decisions for you until you are able to make them again. You can revoke (cancel) your Medical Power of Attorney at any time.
In Texas, a living will is called a Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates. A Directive to Physicians tells your doctor the kinds of medical care that you want to receive and lists any types of medical procedures that you do not want to have done to you in case you become incapacitated. For example, if you do not want to be placed on a ventilator (artificial breathing machine), you can say that in a Directive to Physicians.
Many people choose to have a Directive to Physicians and a Medical Power of Attorney. If you have both and they conflict with one another, doctors will use the most recent one, the document executed later in time controls.
Your agent must be someone you trust and can be any adult (18 or older) who is of sound mind, except the following people:
- Your health care provider
- Your residential care provider (for example, a nursing home administrator)
- An employee of your health care provider or residential care provider, unless that employee is your relative.
A health care provider is a person or facility that provides health care. Your doctor is a health care provider. A residential health care provider is a person or facility that gives medical care in a setting where people stay for a long time. Nursing homes are residential health care providers.
Unless the Medical Power of Attorney limits the agent’s powers, they can make most medical decisions for you. But,
The agent cannot:
- Agree to hospitalize you for mental health services,
- Agree to convulsive treatment or psychosurgery,
- Agree to an abortion, or
- Refuse care that will keep you comfortable.
Health care decisions are agreeing to, or not agreeing to, medical procedures or services to diagnose or treat your physical or mental condition. Your agent has to talk to your doctors before making medical decisions. Your agent can see your medical and hospital records.
The Medical Power of Attorney begins when your doctor says in writing that you cannot make medical decisions for yourself. It lasts until:
- You are able to make your own medical decisions,
- You revoke (cancel) it, or
- Its expiration date (if there is one) arrives.
If the power of attorney expires when you are incompetent, it will stay in effect until you are competent or until you revoke it.
You have to sign your Medical Power of Attorney in front of two witnesses OR have your signature acknowledged by a notary public.
You also have to read a disclosure statement that explains what a Medical Power of Attorney does, and you have to sign a statement saying that you read and understood the disclosure statement.
As noted, the Medical Power of Attorney can be signed before a notary public without the need for witnesses.
Both witnesses must be at least 18 years old. And, one of the witnesses cannot be:
- Your agent,
- Your primary doctor or an employee of your primary doctor,
- Your residential care provider or an employee of your residential care provider,
- Your spouse or any relative,
- A person entitled to any part of your estate, or
- Any person who has a claim against your estate.
You can revoke a Medical Power of Attorney even if you cannot make your own medical decisions. To cancel it, you can:
- Tell the agent, in person or in writing,
- Tell your doctor or residential care provider, in person or in writing,
- Do something that shows you intend to revoke the power, or
- Sign a new Medical Power of Attorney.
If your spouse is your agent, the Medical Power of Attorney automatically ends if you get divorced.
You and your family can get free Medical Power of Attorney and Directive to Physicians forms from the Legal Hotline for Texans
- Here for situations where there might not be witnesses and the Medical Power of Attorney will be verified by a Notary Public.
- Here for situations where there will be two witnesses
If you are over 60 years of age or older, or if you are receiving Medicare you may call the Legal Hotline for Texans to speak to an attorney free of charge. Call (800) 622-2520 or (512) 477-3950.
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Legal Hotline for Texans: (800) 622-2520 or (512) 477-3950
Call our attorney-staffed legal hotline. Advice is free for Texans 60 and older or for anyone receiving Medicare.