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A durable medical power of attorney is a document designed to outline a person’s wishes and concerns for their medical treatment, prior to needing that medical treatment.
There are many suggestions on the internet and on media that a person prepares their own power of attorney documents.

Some people even suggest that the medical power of attorney can be created using forms found on the internet.  While it is true that the United States gives its citizens the right to represent themselves in legal matters, there are very few reasons to take that kind of risk with such an important and easily confusing document as a power of attorney.  Particularly in the case of a medical power of attorney, the language and direction must be such that it takes into account today’s existing health care technology, but also allows for the innovations and industry changes that will undoubtedly come in the future.  While it is always possible to update a durable medical power of attorney at any time, any changes which must be made should not be in response to medical technology.  After all, it’s unlikely that a consumer could know everything that’s being released in the field of emergency treatment in the next twelve months.  It is also reasonable to think that anyone could be in a car accident, or otherwise injured, in a manner that invokes a durable medical power of attorney in a twelve month period.

A durable medical power of attorney is a document designed to outline a person’s wishes and concerns for their medical treatment, prior to needing that medical treatment.  It is a difficult document to design, because those wishes and what is available in the medical marketplace have to line up.  However, the document cannot be so restrictive that treatment the patient would wish to have is withheld.  In short, the document must be specific, but leave room for medical science to learn and grow.  This is not the type of language that a do-it-yourself attorney should put together based on a form from the internet.

However, the person who’s considering a durable medical power of attorney can use those forms as brainstorming and instruction sheets from which to make a comprehensive list of preferences.  This list can include specifics, like the preferred hospital the patient should be taken to, or what happens if the preferred doctor is not available.  The medical professionals may need to know to whom the patient’s medical records and treatment files can be released.  There should be an outline of the types of treatment that the patient does and does not want to have, including resuscitation and the use of medically invasive lifesaving technologies.  

The document should outline as many of the possible scenarios as the patient can think of, and the attorney who has experience creating durable medical power of attorney documents can help fill in any blanks.  The document typically specifies at what point it goes “live” – generally when a medical professional says that the patient can no longer speak for themselves.  The document should also carefully outline at what point it goes “dark” – perhaps when the patient regains the ability to self-represent.

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