As minors, our parents retain the decision-making power over choices regarding our health, but as soon as most of us turn 18, this ability goes out of the window. As adults, the decision becomes ours alone to decide whether we pursue certain treatment options and what ones those are unless we have a health care power of attorney (H-POA) drafted for us.
In case you're unaware of what a H-POA is, it's a legally binding document that you can draft with the help of an estate planning attorney to state who you'd like to make medical decisions on your behalf if you're unable to do so yourself. Once appointed as your health care proxy, this individual can make medical decisions for you either on a limited or more broad scale, depending on how your H-POA is drafted.
Some issues that H-POAs commonly address include whether you'd want to be resuscitated if your heart stopped beating, whether you'd want to undergo certain surgical procedures, receive certain treatments or medications or be left on life support. Some people even include whether they're okay with donating their organs to others, body to science or undergoing an autopsy once they die.
Depending on how your H-POA is written, the person you appoint as your proxy may be able to both access and authorize a disclosure of your medical records.
Proxies should be able to be trusted to make heavy decisions even when it may be difficult to do.
Over the course of your adult life, the person that wishes you had or person you appointed as proxy may change. This is why it's important that you make sure that your H-POA is revocable. If you change your wishes or select a new proxy, then you'll want to put this is writing. A Queens estate planning attorney may also suggest that you update these document when life changes occur.