A medical power of attorney is an estate planning document that designates someone as another person’s agent when it comes to making medical decisions. That agent can make decisions that, legally speaking, work as if they came from the person themselves. It comes into play if the person cannot communicate or make their wishes known.
What are the benefits of a document like this? There are many. If your parent has a medical power of attorney and has named you or a sibling as the agent, it:
- Ensures that the parent’s wishes are actually communicated to the medical professionals, through the agent, who knows what the parent would have wanted.
- Reduces the pressure on the rest of the family members because they do not have to try to make difficult decisions — such as end-of-life care choices — on their own. They know that someone who is qualified to do so is in charge.
- Eliminates the chances of family conflicts, at least in most cases. When there is no agent, the family members may feel like they all have to confer and agree. The agent does not have to ask anyone else, so there is less conflict.
Granted, being the agent can still be stressful and complicated. Family members may still not agree with your choices. You need to know exactly what your parent would have wanted in those circumstances. You also have to know which medical professionals to communicate with and when to do so.
As you move forward in this capacity, or if you just found out your parent chose you for this role, be sure you know exactly what rights and obligations you have.