Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will

A healthcare power of attorney is a legal document that authorizes another person to make healthcare decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself.  With this document, you will be able to name the person who will make the healthcare decisions for you.  You will also be able to name a first and second alternate to serve if your original choice is unavailable.  Your agent will only make decisions regarding your medical treatment if you are unable to do so.

A living will is a document that expresses your declaration regarding the use of life sustaining treatment if you should become terminally ill or permanently unconscious.  The document allows you to make a decision regarding the use of life support technology to prolong your dying and can specify under what conditions you would want artificial feeding and fluids to be withheld.

There are two important differences between healthcare power of attorney and living will.  First, a living will is your statement of your wishes, whereas a healthcare power of attorney appoints someone to make decisions for you if you cannot.  Second, a living will is only effective if you have been determined to be permanently unconscious or terminally ill.  On the other hand, a healthcare power of attorney will become effective if you temporarily cannot make medical decisions.

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