What is Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care?

With a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, a person selects a family member or friend to make decisions about the person's medical treatment if the person ever becomes unable to make or communicate their own medical decisions.

A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is generally more useful than a Living Will. It becomes effective any time a person is unconscious or unable to make medical decisions. The selected agent can make decisions for a patient whenever the patient cannot, even if the patient's decision-making ability is only temporarily affected.

How is a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care different from a Living Will?

Both documents apply only when a person is unable to make heath care decisions. However, a Living Will applies only if the patient has a terminal illness or an injury likely to be fatal and has specified in the Living Will the life-sustaining procedures to be provided, withheld or withdrawn. It provides instructions to the doctor. Use of the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is not limited to patients with a terminal condition or to decisions about life-sustaining procedures.