MEDICAL DECISIONS & COVID – 19 “Coronavirus”

Frequently Asked Question

How do I appoint somebody to make medical decisions on my behalf if I am incapacitated by COVID – 19?

  • The document you need to execute is called a Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA).  This document appoints an agent of your choosing to make medical decisions on your behalf should you be incapacitated by the Coronavirus or any other medical emergency or condition.
  • If your agent is incapacitated or otherwise unable or unwilling to act on your behalf, then you can list alternate agents to step up and make those important medical decisions.  Listing alternates is always a good idea so you aren’t left without anyone to assist you during this time.

What if I appoint somebody to make medical decisions on my behalf, but they refuse?

  • You can’t force someone to take this role, even if you list them as your primary or sole agent.  However, you can reduce the risk of your named agents turning down this appointment if you speak with your potential agents in advance and make sure that they are okay with making these decisions, if necessary.  Appointing an alternate agent, or even a second alternate agent, can also help reduce your risk here.

Who determines whether I am too incapacitated and can’t make my own medical decisions?

  • Typically, it is the attending physician or doctor caring for you.  However, if you have a primary care provider or other doctor that you trust to make that decision, then you can expressly name them in your HCPOA. But, do not confuse “incapacitated” with “incompetent” –incapacity, in this case, is about a temporary condition where you are not able express your wishes. In a legal sense, incompetent refers to a judicial determination that you are not capable of acting on your own behalf.

Does my health care agent decide whether it is time to terminate life prolonging measures (pull the plug?)?  If so, how can I prevent them from making that decision?

  • Yes, your agent can ultimately decide to terminate life-prolonging measures.  But, you can place limitations on your agent’s abilities or authority – for example, limited them so they cannot consent to a particular treatment or type of treatment. Additionally, you can make your wishes regarding termination known with the creation of a Living Will.

What is a Living Will?

A Living Will is a document that allows you to decide, while you are still competent, whether or not to terminate life-prolonging measures, despite what your health care agent says during your incapacitation.   This document applies in the following extenuating circumstances:

  • If you have an incurable or reversible condition that will result in your death within a relatively short period of time;
  • If you become unconscious and your health care providers determine that, to a high degree of medical certainty, you will never regain consciousness; and
  • If you suffer from advanced dementia or any other condition which results in the substantial loss of your cognitive ability and your health care providers determine that, to a high degree of medical certainty, this loss is not reversible.

A Living Will is a document that you should consider executing when executing a HCPOA but is not required. We always recommend having both a HealthCare Power of Attorney and a Living Will, if those issues are important to you.

What if I am quarantined at the hospital and my child is with a caretaker and needs to go to the doctor…is there a document I can create in advance that will allow me to appoint somebody to make sure my children get the medical care that they need?

  • The short answer to this question is yes.  You can create a document called Authorization to Consent to Health Care for a Minor.  Sometimes this is also referred to as a Minor or Childcare Power of Attorney.
  • With this document, a trusted custodian can be named to make sure that your child(ren)’s medical needs are being met, even when you and/or your spouse are incapacitated or otherwise unavailable.
  • If you decide to create this document, know that you can control how long this appointment is to take effect, that you can revoke this authority at any time, and you can limit the scope of the agent’s authority for making decisions until you are able to make them on your own.

Contact our office today for more information or to setup an over the phone consultation 919-335-5291!

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