Who Should Have Your Medical Power of Attorney?



Accidents and illnesses can happen at any stage of life, but as retirement looms the odds increase. In the event that an accident or illness leaves you incapable of making your wishes known, your representative will speak for you. You have to arrange this before disaster strikes by assigning someone your medical power of attorney. This is an important choice, so make it while you’re healthy to save time and confusion later.

Reasons not to give medical power of attorney to your spouse

For most married people there is no question who should have their medical power of attorney. In many cases the “default” choice is the spouse. However, this choice doesn’t make sense for everyone. Some of the most common reasons to put another name on the medical power of attorney forms are disagreements, stress, and your own spouse’s health.

Some people differ drastically on things like resuscitation or life support. If your spouse cannot in good conscious make the hard choices you’d want, it makes sense to choose someone else. Some spouses do not want to make the choices about their loved one’s health, and therefore voluntarily choose to not be asked. Lastly, many spouses have their own health conditions that make them a poor choice. If your spouse has ever needed a medical power of attorney invoked for them, or if it’s likely that their health will fail before yours, they may not be the best choice.

Proximity is important

An ongoing, long-term illness or serious accident may require the presence of someone with your medical power of attorney. If the person you choose lives far away this could impede the effectiveness of your care. Today this is a less pressing issue than it was before digital communication became so easily accessed. Even so, having that someone makes medical decisions without being present involves its own set of risks.

Someone you can trust with your medical information

Even thought this seems obvious, you should never select anyone you don’t want to have access to your medical information. Once the medical power of attorney forms are completed and filed, he or she becomes the first person doctors turn to in the event that you are incapacitated. Certain facts about your medical condition shouldn’t come as a shock to them. You must be comfortable disclosing your current and projected future medical state.

Someone who will follow your wishes

You can make the burden on your selected party easier by drafting a living will. A living will outlines your wishes as broadly and specifically as possible, in an attempt to guide their hand. Even so, you should be comfortable having difficult talks with the person who holds your medical power of attorney. You should make your wishes on things from life-support to organ donation abundantly clear in advance. You may also find that conversations about your general philosophy and wishes will be helpful. In the event that something occurs that your living will did not foresee, the person who holds your medical power of attorney should feel confident that they can estimate your wishes.

Designating someone your medical power of attorney is a serious process. By taking care of it while you’re still healthy you make the process of receiving care easier on you and simpler for your loved one. Don’t be afraid to reach beyond your spouse, if needed, to find the person best able to serve as this important role.