How do you make health care decisions if you are unconscious?

You see news stories about injury accidents in Tennessee all the time, and the number of ways you might end up incapacitated can be terrifying if you think about it too long. If you are suddenly in a situation where you cannot tell the medical personnel what type of care you want, who will decide? What if the decision is something you would never agree to if you were conscious?

Fortunately, there is an estate planning tool known as the durable power of attorney for health care ("HCPOA") that allows you to be in control of your own health, even when you are not able to communicate. In a HCPOA you name someone to speak for you in these types of circumstances. This person then has the legal authority to talk to your health care providers on your behalf and provide informed consent for procedures and treatments.

Also included in the durable power of attorney are the specific powers you are granting to your proxy. For example, he or she can identify which life-prolonging treatments such as mechanical ventilation, feeding and hydration tubes or surgery can be performed. You communicate your wishes to your proxy regarding these in your Advance Care Plan. A HCPOA and Advance Care Plan are estate planning document, therfore they need to be signed in front of two witnesses or a notary public to make it legal.  

This overview of HCPOA and Advanc Care Plans is provided for educational purposes. However, because every situation is unique, this general information should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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