The Importance of Medical Power of Attorney

The Chamberlain Law Firm

As New Jersey estate planning attorneys, we cannot overemphasize the importance of a medical power of attorney (MPOA). Medical powers of attorney can also be referred to as a “healthcare proxy.” This vital legal document allows you to appoint a trusted individual to make healthcare decisions for you when you are unable to do so. Whether you are facing a temporary medical crisis or a long-term incapacity, having an MPOA in place can provide you with peace of mind. 

In this guide, the attorneys at The Chamberlain Law Firm will educate you on the role and importance of MPOAs. Further, we will discuss how a skilled attorney can help throughout your estate planning journey.

What is a Medical Power of Attorney?

A medical power of attorney is an advance directive granting a designated person authority to make healthcare decisions for you. The person that you designate is referred to as your “agent” or “proxy.” This document comes in handy when you are unable to communicate or make decisions for yourself due to incapacitation. 

A medical power of attorney can cover a wide range of healthcare decisions. Examples of decisions that can be specified within an MPOA include, but are not limited to: 

  • Consenting to or refusing medical treatments, such as surgeries or blood transfusions.
  • Choosing or changing healthcare providers.
  • Approving or declining diagnostic tests and procedures.
  • Making decisions regarding life-sustaining treatments, such as ventilators or feeding tubes.
  • Determining the use of pain management and palliative care.
  • Providing consent for organ and tissue donation.
  • Deciding on end-of-life care options, such as hospice care or do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders. 

It’s recommended that you outline your preferences in your MPOA and discuss them with your proxy in advance. That way, you can be sure your healthcare agent is well-equipped to make decisions aligned with your values and wishes.

When Does Your MPOA Go Into Effect?

An MPOA typically goes into effect when you are unable to make your own medical decisions. Usually the document will define how that is determined, which should be in accord with the laws of New Jersey. Typically one doctor can make the decision but to provide an extra layer of protection, or administration depending on how you view this, you can require two doctors to agree that you are unfit to make decisions. 

Sometimes this will be very clear, for example, when someone is in a coma.  However, it can be tricky in certain circumstances, especially when someone is lucid during certain times of the day but at other times they are not. This highlights the importance of choosing an agent you trust to follow your wishes and make decisions in your best interests even when you are deemed incapable of doing so. 

An important point here is that you have every right to change your mind as to who your healthcare agent is. So, it is something you should be aware of and give thought to after you have drafted your MPOA.  For more information about revoking a power of attorney, be sure to read our article.

The Importance of Medical Power of Attorney

There are several reasons why establishing an MPOA is essential:

  • Personal Autonomy: An MPOA ensures that your healthcare preferences and values are honored even when you cannot communicate or make decisions. By selecting a trusted healthcare agent, you can maintain control over your medical care.
  • Prevent Family Disputes: Without an MPOA in place, family members may disagree on the best course of action for your healthcare. An MPOA provides clear guidance on your wishes and helps avoid conflicts.
  • Reduce Stress for Loved Ones: Making medical decisions for someone else can be emotionally challenging. An MPOA outlines your preferences, making it easier for your healthcare agent to carry out your wishes with confidence.
  • Legal Protection: In New Jersey, an MPOA is a legally binding document that protects your healthcare agent from liability when they act according to your documented wishes.

Choosing Your Healthcare Agent

Selecting the right healthcare agent is a crucial step in the MPOA process. Consider the following factors when choosing your agent:

  • Trustworthiness: Your agent should be someone you trust to respect and carry out your healthcare preferences.
  • Availability: Choose an agent who is readily accessible and able to communicate with your healthcare providers.
  • Assertiveness: Your agent should be able to communicate your wishes effectively, even in challenging situations.
  • Understanding of Your Values: Your healthcare agent should have a clear understanding of your values and preferences related to healthcare. Before and after designating your healthcare agent, you should have an ongoing conversation about your healthcare values and preferences.

How a New Jersey Estate Planning Attorney Can Help

A knowledgeable New Jersey estate planning attorney can provide valuable guidance and assistance in establishing a medical power of attorney. They will:

  • Help you understand the legal requirements and implications of a medical power of attorney in New Jersey.
  • Guide you through the process of selecting a healthcare agent and drafting the medical power of attorney document.
  • Ensure that your medical power of attorney complies with New Jersey laws and regulations.
  • Advise you on any updates or changes in the law that may affect your medical power of attorney.

Final Thoughts

A medical power of attorney is essential for ensuring that your healthcare preferences are honored in the event of incapacity. Your designated agent should be someone that you trust to communicate your needs and preferences.

By consulting with a skilled New Jersey attorney, you can establish an MPOA that reflects your values and provides peace of mind for both you and your loved ones. Don’t wait; contact us at The Chamberlain Law Firm today by calling us at (201) 273-9763. For more estate planning advice, be sure to check out our other Insight Articles.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice. In the event you would like to speak with a lawyer about the specifics of your case, contact The Chamberlain Law Firm to schedule a consultation.

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