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What is a Power of Attorney for Health Care?

In a power of attorney, you name a trusted person to make decisions for you.  That person is referred to as an attorney-in-fact or an agent.

In a power of attorney for health care, you name an agent to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself.  For example, if you are rushed to a hospital unconscious, your agent would use your power of attorney to make medical decisions for you.  Without a power of attorney, your doctors are legally restricted from sharing your medical information without your written permission.

Some people name their spouse or other close family member as their agent.  Other’s name close friends.  In choosing an agent, consider whether the prospective agent has the social skills and the time to take charge during a medical emergency.  Also consider how far away your choice lives.  A local person may better be able to communicate with doctors and hospitals than someone who lives far away.

Lastly, it is a good idea to name backup agents in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to serve.