Why is a Healthcare Power of Attorney Important?

As a Summerville probate attorney, I have helped many people who needed to complete a Health Care Power of Attorney (PoA) for themselves or a loved one.  The purpose of a Health Care PoA form is to allow someone else to make medical decisions on your behalf should you be unable to make them yourself. Though we hope that you’ll never need to use a Health Care PoA form, it is good to know that the option is available, should you need it.  Even if you are never in a position that necessitates the use of the form, it is important to know why you still may need to sign one and what exactly you are signing.

What Does a Health Care Power of Attorney Allow in South Carolina?

The first page of a South Carolina Health Care PoA document lays out the following terms:

  • The document gives the person (called an Agent) that you name the power to make any health care decision that you cannot.
  • You may make stipulations within the document regarding your treatment that must be upheld by the agent of your choosing.
  • You will retain the ability to make health care decisions for yourself as long as you are mentally competent.
  • You may at any time revoke the document, terminating the authority of the agent.

Additionally, there must be two witnesses to the signing of the Health Care Power of Attorney document. There are multiple stipulations regarding who can act as a witness for your protection. Perhaps the most important is that no family member can serve as a witness to a signature on your health care PoA form, though they can certainly act as your agent.  The form must also be notarized as well.

Why Do You Need a Health Care Power of Attorney in South Carolina?

It is extremely important that health care providers are able to contact someone during a medical emergency. It may be difficult to progress treatment if no one is available to make decisions and you are unconscious, for example. If a PoA is in place, doctors can simply call your agent and discuss options.  Generally, a PoA is signed by a family member or a very close friend. As they’ll be making possibly life-changing decisions for you, you’ll want to have explicit trust in them and their decision making.

Although you are appointing someone else to make decisions for you, the health care PoA form does allow you to make decisions prior to your needing to execute the Power of Attorney. This means that you’ll be able to decide what your acting agent does in some situations even if you are unable to make decisions at that point. When signing the document, you can make decisions regarding life-sustaining treatment, tube feeding, and organ donation that your agent must abide by.

It is hopefully clear now why, even if you expect never to need someone else to make decisions on your behalf, it is important to have a Health Care PoA in place. If you have questions about the process or would like to have a Health Care Power of Attorney drawn up for you, Watts Law Firm in Summerville, SC can help.