Most adults are capable of making their own healthcare decisions with the assistance of their physicians and loved ones, but sometimes they are not mentally capable of making these decisions. Both temporary and permanent conditions can render you unable to participate in your own healthcare decisions. Ohio law allows you to appoint someone else to make your healthcare decisions under a healthcare power of attorney, also known as a durable power of attorney for healthcare.
Choosing an Agent
The person you name to make your healthcare decisions when you cannot is called your agent. In Ohio, you can appoint any adult you wish as your agent as long as the person you appoint is not your doctor, the administrator of your healthcare facility or an employee of your doctor or health facility. Your agent does not have to be a family member. You can also name an alternate agent in the event that your first agent cannot act. Your agent has power to make decisions for you when you cannot make them for yourself; however, he must make decisions he believes are consistent with your wishes. You can help your agent make such decisions by also creating a living will, a document that describes your specific preferences for end-of-life care, such as the use of artificial nutrition or breathing machines.
Contents of Healthcare Power of Attorney
Your healthcare power of attorney can address many aspects of medical treatment, including life-sustaining treatment and other treatments that might be necessary when you cannot make decisions for yourself. For example, a healthcare power of attorney typically gives your agent authority to consent to surgery or to the administration of medications. If you also have a living will to govern decisions regarding end-of-life care, such as artificial respiration and nutrition, your agent cannot override your living will even if he would otherwise have authority to make such decisions under your power of attorney.
Under Ohio law, you must sign your healthcare power of attorney while you are still of sound mind. You cannot make a healthcare power of attorney once you are mentally incapacitated. You must sign and date the document -- and at least two eligible witnesses must also sign the document or you must have it notarized. Those ineligible to act as witnesses include your agent, spouse, children, anyone related to you by blood, marriage or adoption, as well as your doctor and the administrator of your nursing home. By signing the power of attorney document, the witnesses or notary acknowledge that you were of sound mind when you signed the document and that you were not under duress or pressure.
Ohio allows you to revoke your power of attorney at any time and in any manner. For example, you can revoke your document by simply destroying it; however, you should inform your doctors and loved ones that you revoked it so they know your intentions. Revocations are effective as soon as you express your intent to revoke your power of attorney, but if you previously told your doctors about your healthcare power of attorney, your revocation is not effective until you inform your doctor that you are revoking it. Once your attending physician is properly informed about your revocation, he must enter that information into your medical record. When you make a new healthcare power of attorney, the new document generally revokes your old power of attorney unless you state otherwise in the new document.