Last updated on: 4/23/2018 | Author:

What Is a Health Care Power of Attorney?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

[Editor’s Note: An advance directive is a set of instructions given ahead of time. In terms of healthcare, an advance directive may include a living will, health care power of attorney (also called medical power of attorney), and/or a do-not-resuscitate order and instructs medical professionals and others about a patient’s treatment preferences. In some states, these documents are separate, while other states combine two or more.]

AARP, in an article, “Advance Directive: Creating a Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney,” accessed on Apr. 10, 2018 and available at, stated:

“A health care power of attorney appoints someone to make health care decisions — and not just decisions regarding life-prolonging treatments — on one’s behalf. The appointed health care agent (also called an attorney-in-fact or proxy) becomes the patient’s spokesman and advocate on a range of medical treatments the patient sets out in the document. Of course, the health care agent makes decisions only when the patient can’t communicate on his own. This type of document is sometimes referred to as a health care proxy, appointment of a health care agent or durable power of attorney for health care. It is different from a regular durable power of attorney, which typically covers only financial matters.”

Apr. 10, 2018 - AARP

The American Cancer Society in an article, “Types of Advance Directives,” updated on May 18, 2016 and available at, stated:

“A durable power of attorney for health care is also called a health care power of attorney. It’s a legal document in which you name a person to be your proxy (agent) to make all your health care decisions if you become unable to do so.

Your proxy or agent can speak with doctors and other caregivers on your behalf and make decisions according to directions you gave earlier. The person you chose decides which treatments or procedures you do or do not want. If your wishes in a certain situation are not known, your agent will decide based on what he or she thinks you would want. But some states do restrict your agent’s ability to carry out some requests. For example, a few states do not allow your agent to stop artificial nutrition (feeding) and hydration (giving fluids).

The person named as your proxy or agent should be someone you trust to carry out your wishes. If needed, this person must be able to do this in a time of great stress, uncertainty, and sadness. Talk to your proxy and be sure that he or she is comfortable in this role. And be sure to discuss your wishes in detail with that person. It’s also a good idea to name a back-up person in case your first choice becomes unable or unwilling to act on your behalf. The law does not allow the agent to be a doctor, nurse, or other person providing health care to you at the time you choose them, unless that person is a close relative.

State laws that let you choose a proxy or agent usually require that the request be in writing, signed by the person choosing the proxy (you), and witnessed. In many cases, the proxy also signs the document. Some states have a special form for this.”

May 18, 2016 - American Cancer Society

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization wrote in its 2005 pamphlet, “Questions and Answers: Advance Directive and End-of-Life Decisions”:

“A medical power of attorney is a document that lets you appoint someone you trust to make decisions about your medical care if you cannot make them yourself.

This type of advance directive can also be called a ‘healthcare proxy,’ ‘appointment of a healthcare agent,’ or ‘durable power of attorney for healthcare.’ The person you appoint may be called your healthcare agent, surrogate, attorney-in-fact, or healthcare proxy. The person you appoint through a medical power of attorney usually is authorized to deal with all medical situations, not only end-of-life decisions when you cannot speak for yourself. Thus, he or she can speak for you if you become termporarily incapacitated–after an accident, for example–as well as if you become incapacitated because of irreversible disease or injury.

Generally, the law requires your agent to make the same medical decisions that you would have made, if possible. To help your agent do this, it is essential that you discuss your values about the quality of life that is impotant to you and the kinds of decisions you would make in various situations… These discussions will help your agent to form a picture of your views regarding the use of medical treatments…

When your wishes about a particular medical decision are not known your agent must act in your best interest, using his or her own judgment depending on your state’s law.”

2005 - National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

The American Bar Association explained in its website’s section on “Law for Older Americans,” (accessed on Aug. 3, 2006):

A health care power of attorney (or health care ‘proxy,’ or ‘medical power of attorney’) is a document that appoints someone of your choosing to be your authorized ‘agent’ (or ‘attorney-in-fact’ or ‘proxy’). You can give your agent as much or as little authority as you wish to make health care decisions. The decisions are not limited to just end-of-life decisions. Appointing an agent provides someone with authority to weigh all the medical facts and circumstances and interpret your wishes accordingly. A health care power of attorney is broader and more flexible than the living will.”

Aug. 3, 2006 - American Bar Association (ABA)