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Power of Attorney

  • A legal document that appoints an agent to make medical decisions for you.
  • Allows your agent to have access to your medical records and have your medical information released to.

Why do I need this?

If you are in a serious accident or you become sick enough to be hospitalized and can no longer make medical decisions for yourself, you want the person you choose to be empowered to make those decisions. Otherwise the first relative who arrives at the scene might be called upon to make complicated and personal medical decisions.

How it works:

You create a legal document, which may be called a health care proxy, a durable power of attorney for health care or a medical power of attorney, depending on what state you live in. You are the “principal,” and the person you appoint to make medical decisions for you is the “agent.” The document should say that medical personnel are authorized to release medical information to your agent under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Important Tip:

Talk to your attorney about whether you should supplement a health care proxy by naming a “guardian” or ”conservator,” because you may need someone with broader authority than a health care agent. For instance, if you wind up needing long-term care, there may be a dispute about who has the right to care for you. If you are transgender, you may need to add an instruction that your gender identity be respected, to further empower your proxy to advocate on your behalf.

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