Ask The Expert: The doctor will not listen to me, and/or my brothers and sisters when we direct mom’s health care, what shall I do?

posted by: Ben A. Neiburger Elder Law Attorney

The document that gives someone else the ability to direct another’s health care is called a power of attorney for health care. When a person signs a power of attorney for health care, that person (as the “principal”) appoints an agent to act for them, in their name, with respect to all health care decisions, including removal of life-sustaining treatment. This power of attorney will permit the person who was appointed to act as an agent and access all health care information and direct medical professionals with a person’s care.

To sign a power of attorney for health care, a person must be mentally competent to do so. If a person is not mentally competent to do so, then another law, called the Healthcare Surrogacy Act, applies. Under this law, two or more physicians can ask certain family members to direct health care decisions. However, this is very limiting and it is much more preferable to have an invalid power of attorney for health care in place.

If circumstances become more complicated, then the only option would be to go to court to open up a guardianship proceeding. Since guardianship proceedings are very invasive and expensive, you may want to make sure that there are powers of attorney currently in effect for your parents.

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