Difference Between a Living Will and Power of Attorney

A living will and power of attorney for medical reasons differ. With a medical power of attorney, you authorize the person acting as your attorney in fact to make medical decisions for you. While you might hope they make the choices you would make, they are not obligated to do what you ask unless you specify it in your power of attorney agreement. A living will is your directive that a doctor must follow when you cannot speak up.

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Choosing a Medical Power of Attorney

The person you name as your medical power of attorney agent makes end of life and other important health care decisions for you. If you are brain dead, it is that person's choice as to whether you would remain on life support or not. They'd also be able to decide if you should have a stomach tube inserted for intravenous feedings.

If you trust the person you choose as your medical power of attorney agent to follow your directives, a power of attorney is a solid choice. In that case you can avoid a living will, power of attorney directives would be issued by the person you've chosen to follow your health care principles.

Living Will Directives

With a living will, power of attorney is not given to someone else. You write out your list of medical decision choices regarding life support, feeding tubes and resuscitation efforts. Providing your doctor or hospital has a copy of your living will on file, your orders will be followed.

Family Disputes

With a living will and power of attorney, family members may balk at the decisions you make. You must pick an attorney in fact who has backbone and will stand up to them when they are asking doctors to either prolong your life if you are anti-life support. Alternately, you may need an agent who will back you if you decide you want every test run before life support is disconnected and your family thinks dragging things out is wrong.

Your attorney in fact for the medical power of attorney must be strong and prepared to fight. Most living will and power of attorney forms state “despite family objections” in the form, so make sure that terminology is included.

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