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Health Care Power of Attorney

Malm & LaFave, S.C. Aug. 11, 2021

Why You Need a Power of Attorney

Medical science has improved greatly and can often keep you alive in situations that previously would have caused death. Innovations that keep people alive longer include artificial food and water through tubes inserted into the body, reviving the heart, and maintaining breathing through a heart/lung machine even when the brain is no longer able to command the heart and lungs to work.

The ability to remain alive can be associated with diminished ability to make your own health care decisions. Health care decisions often include the need for medical treatment, determining the appropriate residential setting, and applying for public and private benefits that will pay for the cost of care. When you are determined to be at the end of life without hope of recovery, being kept alive by machines or other artificial means can result in a reduced quality of life for you and your loved ones.

The courts can be asked to appoint a guardian to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to make your own decisions. But court intervention can be expensive, time-consuming and emotionally difficult for you and your family. The need for guardianship to make health care decisions can often be avoided with an Advance Directive that names a surrogate health care decision maker who can act during temporary or permanent periods when you cannot make your own decisions.

What You Need to Know

In Wisconsin, executing a Health Care Power of Attorney is the preferred procedure in preparing for illness. The document can be more general, leaving it to the health care agent to make decisions in keeping with your known wishes. Importantly, the health care agent is generally required to make decisions in keeping with your known wishes. You can change your agent and the instructions that you give as long as you retain the mental capacity to understand the change you are making.

You may also want to sign a Living Will, sometimes referred to as a Health Care Declaration. This type of document should state your preferences for health care if you have a terminal illness or are in a permanent vegetative state. This type of legal document can list your wishes for pain management at the end of life, can instruct doctors and other health care staff on the type of treatments you do or do not want, and can provide for spiritual, emotional and comfort items that you would like to be present at the end of life.

Where to Go for Help

The legal documents are highly personal and should be discussed with an attorney very knowledgeable in this area in order to meet your individual needs. While there are pre-printed forms available, these mass-produced forms may not consider your personal needs and may not really meet your goals for how your individual care should be handled. Malm & LaFave, S.C. Attorneys are well versed in health care decision making issues and numerous medical treatment options so they are the perfect experts to provide assistance in preparing these documents.

When meeting with an Elder Law attorney, you will be counseled about the choices available to you under the laws of Wisconsin, you will receive advice and guidance about who can or should be named as your health care agent or alternate, and you will receive instruction on the proper legal requirements for the health care planning document. Personal guidance and the opportunity to discuss options will allow you to create documents tailored to your needs and should give you and your family peace of mind.

Malm & LaFave, S.C. Attorneys are able to advise you about issues to consider to ensure that your true wishes for medical treatment decisions will be followed. These issues can include religious preferences, disposition or remains, autopsy or preferences about specific medical procedures and circumstances. Malm & LaFave, S.C. Attorneys are able to customize documents to address your specific personal circumstances and state-specific issues that may need to be addressed.

Privacy laws may make it difficult for designated agents to gain access to medical records or to junction as health care decision-makers. Malm & LaFave, S.C. Attorneys can draft documents to avoid these problems.

Working regularly with older clients, their families and people with disabilities, the Elder Law attorney addresses issues related to personal control of health care decision making and end-of-life issues. Additionally, the Malm & LaFave, S.C. attorney has working knowledge of possible scenarios facing client in planning for quality of life in health care, estate planning, and overall well-being. Malm & LaFave, S.C. Attorneys are uniquely experienced to provide clients with an integrated plan to meet immediate, future and special needs.