Advanced healthcare power of attorney (PoA).

Meeting with a financial planner recently it dawned on me to write a post on healthcare power of attorneys. The healthcare power of attorney sometimes overlaps with a living will, however they are quite distinct. It just makes sense to plan for these future uncertain events, even if it does make us a little uncomfortable to think about. These documents are instructions to a person of your choice on how you wish to proceed in the event that you cannot make such decisions for yourself.

This issue came to the forefront in 2005 in the Terry Schiavo case. You may remember that the husband was unable to have his wife’s life support withdrawn should she be in a persistent vegetative state. Although that was his wife’s wishes, without her preparing a living will he was compelled to defer to the opinions of doctors and state law. This predicament can be avoided completely in Louisiana by having a living will. The Louisiana Secretary of State provides a form which is a very basic document you can use to evidence your own wishes. The form can be downloaded here.

Although helpful, the living will supplied by the Louisiana Secretary of State is very basic. To supplement the living will we always suggest an advanced healthcare power of attorney (sometimes called an advanced directive).  A typical healthcare power of attorney grants authority to make medical decisions on your behalf, should you be unable to do so yourself. In contrast, an advanced directive grants a very broad scope of authority that is often not included in a typical PoA.

As a result, we offer our clients an advanced directive that we believe is is more comprehensive than a typical PoA. This includes an explicit provision on the requirements of Louisiana Civil Code Article 2997, defining special terms, and consideration of tube feeding, extraordinary suffering, and liability of the appointee. Here is an example of our advanced directive to get a better idea.

As I’ve said over and over, the lawyers job is to process information and create the desired outcome for the client. Especially with living wills and healthcare PoAs/advanced directives, no single form or sample is sufficient to cover all circumstances. These are issues that are very sensitive and require difficult moral decisions. Whether right or wrong is not the role of the attorney. Rather, our goal is to meet your wishes, and let you answer these difficult moral questions rather than putting the burden of such a decision on someone else.