The National Institute on Aging reports that people incorrectly guess their loved ones' preferences regarding end-of-life decisions at a high rate––one out of three. While it is not comfortable to think about illness or the end of life, it is important to plan for these events with loved ones. Advance directives are legal documents that stipulate a person's wishes for their medical care; an advance directive goes into effect only if the individual cannot communicate their wishes themselves.
There are different types of advance correctives, and you may have questions about them, as well as about the difference between advanced directive and a medical power of attorney. If this is the case, it may be helpful to speak with a legal professional.
Jason English Law in the Austin Texas area has extensive estate planning experience and may be able to assist.
Consider reaching out for a consultation at (512) 454-7548.
What Are the Two Most Common Forms of Advance Directives?
The two primary types of advance directives are a living will, on the one hand, and a medical power of attorney, on the other. The Texas State Law Library explains that a living will is also known as “directive to physicians.” The living will or directive to physicians is also sometimes referred to by the generic term advance directive. A living will outlines a person's wishes for their medical care to medical professionals and is often used for end-of-life care. In contrast, a medical power of attorney grants someone else the authority to decide the sick person's care on their behalf.
A Living Will or Advance Directive
In Texas, advance directives cover any treatment considered necessary to keep a patient alive. This may include life-sustaining medications and artificial life support, but does not extend to medication or procedures that are designed to relieve pain or provide comfort to the patient. An advance directive goes into effect when the patient is no longer able to speak for themselves, or capable of making informed decisions for themselves. The advance directive provides healthcare personnel with instructions for the person's care. An advance directive can be revoked by the person who has created it, also known as the declarant, at any point in time.
Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney grants someone else the authority to make healthcare decisions for the declarant. A medical power of attorney lasts unless it is revoked, the patient is deemed capable of making their own healthcare decisions again, or the power of attorney expires (if the document lists an expiration date). A key difference between advanced directive and a medical power of attorney is that an advance directive, such as a living will. discusses specific procedures or types of care and explicitly to doctors directly whether the person wants these medical interventions or not, while with medical power of attorney, someone else makes decisions about these procedures on the individual's behalf.
Is Advance Directive the Same as Medical Power of Attorney?
A medical power of attorney is one type of advance directive. A key aspect of this type is that the person who creates a medical power of attorney selects someone and entrusts that person with the authority to make medical decisions on their behalf in the event that they become incapacitated and are unable to make those decisions themselves. Choosing someone to decide your medical care on your behalf is a serious matter and it is important to select someone who:
- Is not part of your medical care team
- Meets state requirements surrounding health care proxies.
- Is open to thoroughly discussing medical care and end-of-life issues
- Understands your desires and will make decisions compatible with them
- Can keep a level head during difficult situations and respect the wishes previously discussed, even when there are disagreements about the best options for care
Often, the health care proxy for a medical power of attorney is a spouse or family member such as an adult child. Individuals who have questions about medical power of attorney and the difference between advanced directive and a medical power of attorney may find it helpful to seek legal guidance from an experienced attorney at Jason English Law.
What Is the Difference Between an Advance Directive and a Health Care Proxy?
The health care proxy is the person designated in a medical power of attorney and invested with the authority to make decisions about a person's healthcare when the individual who establishes the power of attorney can no longer make those decisions for themselves. While it is a type of advance directive, one of the key differences between advanced directive and a medical power of attorney is that an advance directive may also be a living will, which stipulates to the medical provider what procedures may or may not be done. A living will advance directive might state that the individual does not wish for CPR or feeding tubes. If a living will does not address such concerns, then the health care proxy named in a medical power of attorney may make that decision on the patient's behalf, should the question of the procedure arise.
Do I Need Both an Advance Directive and a Medical Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions?
Each of these documents can be an important component of an estate plan and preparing for illness or end-of-life care. The two documents work together; the advance directive or living will specifies to doctors what care the person wishes to receive––while in cases of unforeseen choices, where the person did not specify what care they desire, a medical power of attorney is important because it allows the proxy to make a decision based on what they believe that the patient wants.
How an Experienced Lawyer May Be Able To Help
Preparing for end-of-life can be overwhelming, as individuals grapple with not only the implications of their own mortality but also more mundane frustrations such as the difference between advanced directives and a medical power of attorney. An experienced estate planning attorney may be able to assist you with understanding key aspects of these documents and planning for the future so that you can provide loved ones with guidance for your care.
At Jason English Law, we take a collaborative approach to working with our clients and work closely with them to meet their needs.