Two of the critical estate planning documents are the medical durable power of attorney (DPOA) and medical directives. These documents assist someone in expressing their medical wishes and desired treatment in certain situations.
The medical DPOA operates by assigning an agent to act on someone’s behalf when they are unable to do so. The agent is permitted to make some or all medical decisions for an incapacitated individual. These medical decision-making powers may be broad or limited, depending on the desire of the person appointing the agent. The agent instructs medical providers a person’s wishes regarding their treatment.
The medical directives specify what treatment(s) should be taken when someone is incapacitated or unable to make decisions on their own. These typically come into play when the outcome for quality of life is poor, or further treatment is unlikely to resolve the medical problem. For example, someone may instruct health care providers to cease treatment if further treatment is unlikely to resolve the health problem and are only prolonging the inevitable. The medical directives in situations such as this may instruct health care providers to cease treatment and only provide pain relief.
Schmidt and Long combines the medical directives and the durable power of attorney in most cases, along with a HIPAA (Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). The HIPAA release allows designated persons access to medical records. These records may be critical in treating a health problem. Thus, by permitting the ability of specified individuals to obtain medical records, the treating physicians have access to prior medical records and treatments that may aid in treating a current medical problem. By combining these three documents into one, the health treatment and medical instructions portion of the estate plan is all in one place.