What Is a Healthcare Power Of Attorney?

A healthcare power of attorney or HCPA is a legal form that allows an individual to empower another with decisions regarding his or her healthcare and medical treatment.

Understanding Healthcare Power Of Attorney (HCPA)

Healthcare power of attorney becomes active when a person is unable to make decisions or consciously communicate intentions regarding treatments.

The healthcare power of attorney allows people who become unable to make their own decisions to exercise their beliefs and wishes regarding medical procedures. The person's agent can communicate on behalf of the sick or injured person, preventing unwanted treatment or making necessary decisions in the event that the individual is unable to do so. The process of denoting an HCPA is fairly straightforward and the privilege can be revoked at any time by filling out a new form and destroying the old copies of the previous form.

How to Set Up a Healthcare Power Of Attorney (HCPA)

To appoint someone as your healthcare power of attorney, there is a form that you can fill out that names the individual and any stipulations that you wish them to have regarding your medical care. The form will also list any special requests you have about your care in the event that you are unable to make decisions for yourself, such as listing yourself as DNR or avoiding interventions that will extend life.

Some states do not permit a universal power of attorney form and require a state-specific form to be filled out. If you live in Indiana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Texas, or Wisconsin, you will need to fill out a state-specific form to designate your power of attorney. Some states also require witnesses to be present if the individual is in a nursing home or care facility. A basic healthcare power of attorney form will require you to list your name, birthday, date of the form, and the identifying information of the individual that you are naming. You can also name two back-up agents in the event that your first preference is not available or unwilling to take on the role. Unless you live in Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, or West Virginia, states that require the form be notarized, the power of attorney takes effect upon signing of the paperwork.

It is important that you choose someone that you trust to be your power of attorney, as that individual may, quite literally, be required to make life-or-death decisions for you.