healthcare power of attorney

What is a healthcare POA?

A healthcare power of attorney (“POA”) is a legal instrument that allows you to select the person that you want to make healthcare decisions for you if and when you become unable to make them for yourself. The person you choose is your agent/representative for purposes of healthcare decision-making.

What types of healthcare decisions can be covered by a healthcare POA?

healthcare power of attorney hands

A healthcare POA can govern any kind of decision that is related to your health that you want to address. A healthcare POA may include decisions related to organ donation, hospitalization, treatment in a nursing home, home health care, psychiatric treatment, and more.

For example, if you don’t want to be kept alive with machines, you can make this clear in your POA for healthcare. But keep in mind your POA for healthcare isn’t just about end-of-life decisions – again, it can cover any medical situation.

When would I use a healthcare POA?

A healthcare POA is used when you become unable to make healthcare decisions for yourself. Your agent will then be able to make decisions for you based on the information you provided in your healthcare POA. Equally important, your agent will be access your medical records, communicate with your healthcare providers, and so on.

What happens if I don’t have a healthcare POA?

doctors in operating room

If don’t have a healthcare POA, and you should become disabled to the point where you are unable to make healthcare decisions for yourself, your doctor(s) will ask your family and friends what to do.

You might disagree with the decision your family makes, or your family members may not be able to agree on how to handle your medical care.

Ultimately, if your loved ones can’t agree on a course of action, they would have to go to an Iowa Court and have a conservator/guardian appointed for you. It may, or may not, be someone you would have chosen. Further, the conservator/guardian may make decisions you wouldn’t have made.

This is all very complicated, time consuming, and expensive, especially compared with the convenience of simply having a healthcare POA in place. A healthcare POA gives you control over how decisions are made for you, and the agent you choose will carry out your wishes.

Is there a “one-size-fits-all” POA for healthcare?

No! All Iowans are special and unique and have special and unique issues and concerns. Consequently, this article is presented for informational purposes only, not as legal advice. Consult your lawyer for personal advice.

Do I need other estate planning documents in addition to a healthcare POA?

Yes, definitely! There are six “must have” estate planning documents most Iowans need; healthcare POA is just one of those documents.

Do you have a healthcare POA? Do you have an overall estate plan? Why or why not? Want to get started on crafting your healthcare POA (and other essential estate planning documents) let’s talk. Email me anytime at or give me a call at 515-371-6077.

1 reply
  1. Phyllis Weeks says:

    It is my understanding that if you make an end-of-life directive, it may not be followed in a Catholic hospital. The bishop’s directive would override yours and may extend your life beyond what you had in mind.

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