Power of Attorney: Make Your Wishes Known

by Joanna

Why should we care about things like Power of Attorney forms or Living Wills?  Isn’t that something a lawyer or a doctor needs to know about? In Wisconsin, two types of Advance Directives are used: A “Power of Attorney for Health Care” and a “Living Will." The Living Will describes your wishes if you are faced with a serious health condition, and you are not able to talk with others around you. The Power of Attorney appoints someone to make health care decisions for you in the event that you are not capable of making them yourself. Both types of documents allow you to make known your wishes about issues like quality of life, being kept alive on machines, being independent, living as long as possible, and death. 


Advance Directives may allow another party to make decisions for you if you are not capable of making them yourself. If you are incapacitated and another person is making decisions for you according to your Advance Directives, then the situation is similar to having a Release of Information. However, Advance Directives are not exactly the same as an ROI. 


For example, I have an Advance Directive but right now there is no reason I can’t make my own decisions so my ‘proxy’ (the person I designated to make my decisions) isn’t ‘on duty’ right now. However, if I stepped into a Looney Tunes cartoon and the Coyote dropped a Grand Piano on me, chances are my doctors would say I wouldn’t be able to make my own decisions for a while, and that’s when my proxy would start to be on duty and could make my decisions (and would hopefully shoot an Acme Rocket back at the Coyote!). A critical piece to remember about the Advanced Directive is that it must be activated, which means that two doctors must attest to your incapacitation before your proxy can begin making decisions on your behalf. 


The Wisconsin Medical Society is working to raise awareness of Advance Directives. The May 26, 2011 edition of the Society’s newsletter, Medigram quoted a recent survey by the Wisconsin Bar Association which found that an estimated 80 percent of Wisconsin residents – including 50 percent of those with severe or terminal illnesses – have not completed an advance directive to document their preferences about issues surrounding end-of-life decisions. Dr. George Lange, the President of WMS, is appealing to the provider community to work with patients to make their wishes known. 


If you are interested in completing a Power of Attorney for Health Care form, it is available on the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website in PDF format (http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/forms/AdvDirectives/F00085.pdf). You do not need an attorney to complete the form, but the form does need to be witnessed to be valid.

Hope this helps to ease your mind about the subject a little. Having one on file can save family members a lot of heartache if they are unsure of your wishes.


Share this article:

Related Posts