A medical power of attorney (MPOA) is a vital document for each and every one of us, no matter how old/young, healthy/ill we may be. No one wants to end up in a situation where his or her medical treatment decisions are not being carried out as one wishes, nor would any one of us want the state or federal congress, our state’s governor, our country’s president, or the United States Supreme Court weighing in on “what I really want to be done.” No one wishes his or her situation to be exploited or used in any way by political or advocacy groups, no matter what one’s individual values may be. THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN AVOID THIS IS TO GET IT IN WRITING!
It’s like doing your taxes, but is your life and what you would have done with it by a health care provider any less important than how you want your financial life treated?
You can get FREE MPOAs from your state legislator, from you local library or off the Internet.
Please, just decide to do it. There is no way around this one but straight through it.
Now, some practical information about MPOAs:
- Yes, it’s true. Not all doctors honor it. However, you minimize the chances of your wishes being ignored. Having something is better than nothing.
- Doing an MPOA is NOT a one-shot deal. My suggestion is to bow off the dust every year and re-sign it. Do not let this document age more than one year. A doctor does not want to look at something more than a year old and try to figure out if this continues to reflect your current desires.
- Make sure your designated spokesperson(s) sign(s) their acceptance. Your agent cannot speak for you if he or she has not signed to accept the power you’ve bestowed upon them.
- Carry a wallet-sized card in your wallet/purse that identifies your Patient Advocate and all phone numbers where they can be reached. Under state law, you can now place a sticker on the back of your license to accomplish this.
- Make sure your agent(s) has/have a copy of your MPOA, and they have it in a place they can quickly access if needed.
- Make sure your regular physician has a copy of your MPOA.
- If you go to the hospital, make sure you have your agent make a copy for your hospital record every time your are admitted. Do not assume that a copy from your last hospital trip is going to show up in a new medical record. It won’t.
- Make sure your agent has a current list of your medications and health conditions. Also make sure they know who your primary care physician is, as well as names and numbers to emergency contacts you would like to be advised if you are in a health crisis.
- Along with the MPOA, complete a “values” inventory. There are many formats available, e.g. “Five Wishes,” “Your Way,” “Tool Kit.” Information on these can all be found on-line. STAPLE this to your MPOA and reference it in your MPOA so that it becomes “incorporated” into the MPOA. Completing such a inventory will enormously help your spokesperson/agent. These decisions are not as simple as “yes, I want heroic measures,” or “no, I don’t.” For instance, if your condition would not improve and your life expectancy was measured in months, would you want antibiotic treatment for infections? There are many other situations that you need to think through besides “pulling the plug.”
- Talk often with your agent. He/she needs to periodically be informed of your desires. Consistency of desire over time is the best indicator of your wishes. On the other hand, if you change your mind, obviously your agent has to know this, and your MPOA needs to be changed accordingly.
Doing these steps will help you insure a peaceful passage from the here to the hereafter, for both you and your loved ones.
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