What is a Texas Medical Power of Attorney? It is a document, signed by a competent adult, i.e., “principal,” designating a person that the principal trusts to make health care decisions on the principal’s behalf should the principal be unable to make such decisions. The individual chosen to act on the principal’s behalf is referred to as an “agent.”
When does the Medical Power of Attorney go into effect and how long is it effective?
It is effective immediately after it is executed and delivered to the agent. It is effective indefinitely unless it contains a specific termination date, it is revoked, or the principal becomes competent.
When does the agent have the right to make health care decisions on the principal’s behalf?
An agent may make health care decisions on the principal’s behalf only if the principal’s attending physician certifies in writing that the principal is incompetent. The physician must file the certification in the principal’s medical record.
Can the agent make a health care decision if the principal objects?
No. Treatment may not be given to or withheld from the principal if the principal objects. This is true whether or not the principal is incompetent.
What health care decision making power does the Medical Power of Attorney grant to an agent?
Under a Medical Power of Attorney, an agent is given wide latitude when consenting to treatment on the principal’s behalf. However, an agent cannot consent to:
Commitment to a mental institution,
Neglect of comfort care.
And in the Medical Power of Attorney document itself, the principal may limit the agent’s decision-making authority.
How is the Medical Power of Attorney revoked?
A Medical Power of Attorney may be revoked by notifying either the agent or the principal’s health care provider orally or in writing, of the principal’s intent to revoke. This revocation will occur regardless of the principal’s capacity to make health care decisions. Further, if the principal executes a later Medical Power of Attorney, then all prior ones are revoked. If the principal designates his/her spouse to be the agent, then a later divorce revokes the Medical Power of Attorney.
What assurance is there that the principal understands the consequences of signing a Medical Power of Attorney?
The Medical Power of Attorney is not legally effective unless the principal signs a disclosure statement that he/she has read and understood the contents of the Medical Power of Attorney before signing the Medical Power of Attorney itself.
Do I need a Medical Power of Attorney?
There is a chance in your lifetime that you may be seriously injured, ill, or otherwise unable to make decisions regarding health care. If this should happen, it would be helpful to have someone who knows your values and in whom you have trust to make such decisions for you.
Who should be selected as an agent?
The principal should be knowledgeable about your wishes, values, and religious beliefs, and in whom you have trust and confidence. In the event your agent does not know of your wishes, that agent should be willing to make healthcare decisions based upon your best interests.
Can there be more than one agent?
Yes. Although you are not required to designate an alternate agent, you may do so. The alternate agent(s) may make the same health care decisions as the designated agent if the designated agent is unable or unwilling to act.
Who can be an agent?
Anyone may act as an agent other than the following:
The principal’s health care provider,
An employee of the health care provider unless the person is a relative of the principal,
The principal’s residential care provider, or
An employee of the principal’s residential care provider unless the person is the principal’s relative.
Do you need a witness?
Yes, two witnesses must sign the Medical Power of Attorney. At least one of the witnesses must not be:
Designated by the principal to make a health care decision on the principal’s behalf;
Related to the principal by blood or marriage;
The principal’s attending physician or an employee of the attending physician;
Entitled to a part of the principal’s estate;
A person having a claim against the principal’s estate;
An employee of a health care facility in which the principal is a patient if the employee is providing direct care to the principal; or
An officer, director, partner, or business office employee of the health care facility or of any parent organization of the health care facility.
What is the difference between a Medical Power of Attorney and a Directive to Physicians?
The Directive to Physicians is a document that is limited in scope, addressing only the withholding or withdrawing of medical treatment for those persons having a terminal or irreversible condition. The Medical Power of Attorney is broader in scope and includes all health care decisions with only a few exceptions. The Medical Power of Attorney does not require that the principal be in a terminal or irreversible condition before the principal’s agent can make health care decisions on the principal’s behalf.