There are at least four important questions to ask yourself:

First - What Are My Values? The Health Care Power of Attorney may shape how you experience a period of disability or the very final stage of your life. You can help others respect your wishes if you take some steps now to clarify and communicate your personal values and attitudes. One possible way to do this is by developing your own "Values History" for medical decisions. This involves discussing your values and attitudes with loved ones or advisors and writing down your responses to questions such as...

· How do you feel about your current health?

· How important is independence and self-sufficiency in your life?

· What is the significance of illness, disability, dying, and death to you?

· How might your personal relationships affect medical decision making?

· What role should doctors and other health professionals play in such decisions?

· What kind of living environment is important to you?

· How should matters involving your personal or family finances be decided?

· What role do religious beliefs play in your life?

· What are your thoughts about life in general: your hopes and fears, enjoyments and sorrows?

Second - Who Should Be My Agent?

The choice of agent is the most important part of this process. Your agent will have great power over your health and personal care if you become incapacitated. There is normally no formal oversight or monitoring of their decisions. Speak to the person (and successor persons) you wish to appoint beforehand to explain your intentions and confirm their willingness to act on your behalf and their understanding of your wishes. Also be aware that some states prohibit certain persons (such as your health care provider) from acting as your agenL if you can think of absolutely no one you trust to carry out this responsibility, then you may be better off not creating a Health Care Power of Attorney.

Third - How Specific Should I Be?

A Health Care Power of Attorney need not provide directions or guidelines for your agent. However, if you have specific wishes or preferences, it is important to spell them out in the document itself and in discussions with your agent and health care providers. This helps ensure that your wishes, values and preferences will be respected. Especially think about your wishes regarding the use of artificial feeding (nutrition and hydration) since people differ widely in their views on this topic.

At the same time, be aware that no matter how much direction you provide, your agent will still need considerable discretion and flexibility, for it is impossible to predict all the circumstances you may face.

Fourth - How Can I Reduce "Third-Party Reluctance"?

Regardless of the legal status of Health Care Powers of Attorney in your state, some physicians, hospitals or other health care providers may still be unfamiliar with such documents or they may have personal views or values contarry to your stated desires. As a result, they may not want to recognize your Health Care Power of Attorney.

The best way to avoid this problem is to talk to your physician and other health care providers ahead of time to make sure they understand the document and have no objections to following it. if objections arise, you need to work them out, or you can choose to change physicians. Once you sign a Health Care Power of Attorney, be sure to give a copy of it to your attending physician.

Yes, you can put an end to your Health Care Power of Attorney at any time by notifying your agent or health care provider of your decision to terminate it. Although you can do this in most any manner, it is best to notify your agent in writing of the termination, destroy the health care power of attorney document itself, and notify your physician and any other health care providers, verbally and in writing.



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