A Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, or sometimes called a Healthcare Power of Attorney (HCPOA), is an important document for everyone to have. The specific reasons for having an HCPOA will change throughout life, but the general idea remains the same. The purpose of an HCPOA is two-fold: it allows you to name one or more persons to have access to your medical records and it allows you to give that person or those people the power to make medical decisions for you when you are not able. Consider these scenarios.
Jared and Mia Part 1: Jared and Mia are engaged. Mia is in a car accident. Mia is alive, but unresponsive. The hospital will not be able to give Jared information about Mia's condition without Mia's consent. Because Mia is unresponsive, this means and Jared will anxiously wonder what is happening until he is able to work through the HIPPA requirements with the hospital. If Mia had an HCPOA naming Jared as her "attorney-in-fact" or "agent" he would have had access to her medical files and the doctors could inform him as to all that is happening. This scenario would be the same with a parent and an adult child. Even between two spouses, the process of the hospital being about to release information would be expedited if there is an HCPOA.
Jared and Mia Part 2: Now the hospital is wanting to perform procedures that could potentially prolong her life, but Jared knows Mia would not want done. Unfortunately, Jared has no power to make those decisions for her. If Mia had an HCPOA, Jared would have the power to act as her agent and make decisions for her medical treatment that are within any guidelines she had set.
Keep in mind that an HCPOA only comes into play when you are unable to make the decisions for yourself; so these people will only have these powers if you become incapacitated or unresponsive. As long as you are able to consent or deny informed consent, you will be the one choosing what is done medically for yourself. However, should you become incapacitated, this is an extremely useful document. Remember to update your HCPOA regularly so that the best person is named as your agent. Although we dread to think of the times when this document would be used, in a world of few promises, it is best to be prepared.