Comparing Durable Power Of Attorney And Living Wills

Posted on: 11 June 2015


While no one wants to think about being too sick or injured to communicate with your doctor, it can be an unfortunate reality. If you have done nothing to legally prepare for this kind of situation, your medical care could be left in the hands of someone who does not know what your wishes are in regards to ongoing care. Having a durable power of attorney or living will in place will help make sure your wishes are followed. But what is the difference between the two?

Living Wills

One of the most important things you need to understand about living wills is they do not become effective until your diagnosis is terminal or you are in a permanent vegetative state. While the rules may vary from state to state, typically two doctors will need to confirm that you have no hopes of recovery before the living will is instituted. At that point, if you have a living will written out, it will guide the doctors on your wishes for future medical care once you become incapable of communication. This includes any life prolonging treatments, do not resuscitate orders, and organ donation wishes.

Durable Power of Attorney

Durable power of attorney is used for situations outside of a terminal diagnosis. For instance, if you have an accident that puts you in a coma and you are unable to speak with the doctors, an appointed durable power of attorney can speak on your behalf and give permission or decline medical treatment until you become well enough to do it on your own. The person that you give this responsibility to should be someone you trust completely and knows everything you do or do not want in regards to medical treatment.

Can You Have Both?

Yes. In fact, it is recommended that you have both in place just in case of a medical emergency. A living will can keep a family member from having to make difficult decisions on your behalf if the situation is hopeless. A durable power of attorney gives one trusted person the ability to make decisions for you while you are incapacitated. Without either, you could possibly have family members fighting over what is best for you, which could stop or prolong a treatment you never wanted.

Working with a family lawyer to put a living will and durable power of attorney in place will give you peace of mind that you are receiving the medical care you want while you are unable to make the decisions for yourself. You also save family members from guessing what it is you want because everything will be laid out for them.