The State of Ohio Health Care Power of Attorney

By Heather Frances J.D.

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.

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.

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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.

Signing Requirements

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.

Revocation

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.

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Ohio's Living Wills

References

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Does a Surgeon Have to Tell You to Do a Power of Attorney If You Are to Have Heart Surgery?

If you are scheduled for serious or risky surgery, it is a good idea to discuss the merits of an advance healthcare directive with your physician. One option is a durable power of attorney that authorizes a trusted friend to make decisions on your behalf while you are incapacitated; another is a living will. However, your surgeon cannot obligate you to execute either legal document.

How to Appoint a Power of Attorney

A power of attorney allows one person to act on behalf of another person in various matters, including health or finances. You may give another person, known as your agent or attorney-in-fact, power of attorney as long as you're mentally competent. You must draft a power of attorney document that meets the legal requirements in your state in order to give your agent authority.

Durable Power of Attorney and HIPAA

The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, commonly known as "HIPAA," provides that a physician may not disclose a patient’s condition or the circumstances surrounding the patient’s care to a third party, with limited exceptions. This rule is designed to protect confidentiality; therefore, some doctors may be unwilling to share information about a patient's health, even if the patient designated an agent for health care under a durable power of attorney. As a result, your agent might be unable to act in your best interests. To guard against this possibility, include language in your durable power of attorney document that waives HIPAA confidentiality rights.

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