Four Documents that Every Adult Should Have: #1 – Healthcare Power of Attorney : Planning for the Future / Dealing with the Past
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Four Documents that Every Adult Should Have: #1 – Healthcare Power of Attorney

by Betty Burley on 10/23/18

This is the first in a series of four articles that discuss the four documents that I think that every adult should have. 

1.       Healthcare Power of Attorney

What is a Healthcare Power of Attorney?
A Healthcare Power of Attorney is a legal document that appoints someone to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to speak for yourself. 

Why do I need a Healthcare Power of Attorney?
A Healthcare Power of Attorney isn’t just for elderly people in the end stage of life.  Young people should have a Healthcare Power of Attorney, too.  Why?  Consider this scenario:

22 year old James is on his way home from college for a weekend break.  James has just finished his cross country season.  James doesn’t drink of smoke.  He is in prime physical condition.  James’ car is hit by a drunk driver.  James is thrown through the windshield.  He is unconscious.  His left leg and pelvis are badly broken.  The doctors believe that James will regain consciousness and as there is minimal swelling inside his skull, they believe that his brain will function normally.  His leg, however, needs intervention.  The orthopedic surgeon wants to operate. There are two options – one carries a small risk of paralysis but has a better chance of restoring full function.  The other is less risky, but James will never run competitively again.  James is an adult.  He has not completed a Healthcare Power of Attorney form.  His divorced parents do not agree on his treatment.  James’ surgeon opts for the less risky procedure.  James wakes up.  He is able to go back to college during the next semester.  He is able to walk after some physical therapy, but he never runs competitively again.  He would have chosen the riskier procedure, but it’s too late to revise the surgery.

How do I Choose a Person to Name in My Healthcare Power of Attorney?

I take an active role in managing my health.  Whenever possible, I treat my symptoms holistically.  When my blood pressure started to climb a few years ago, I asked my doctor to give me some time to bring it down myself – through diet and exercise – before putting me on another pill.  I don’t like pain medications.  They make my thinking fuzzy.  Over the counter pain medications give me stomach problems.  I don’t like to take them, either.  I’ll put up with a moderate amount of pain before I pop a pill.  I like to think of surgery as a “last resort.”  I think the body has a great ability to health itself if we give it a chance. 

Why, you might wonder, am I sharing these personal things with you in a legal blog?  The simple answer is that these are the kinds of issues that you need to discuss with the person who is named as your agent in your Healthcare Power of Attorney.  My agent knows what is important to me.  If I cannot speak for myself, he has promised to tell my doctors what is important to me, and if an important decision needs to be made, he has promised to make the decision that he believes I would make for myself – even if he disagrees. 

You should name someone who your trust – someone who would make the decision that they believe that you would make for yourself if you were able – not necessarily the decision that they would make for themselves.


The next article in this series will discuss your Ohio Living Will – what it is, and why you need it.


Attorney Betty Burley has been practicing law in Vermilion, Ohio since 2010.  She offers consultations in person, by telephone or through Facetime / Skype.  Attorney Burley offers special pricing on a “Four Documents” package that includes a Healthcare Power of Attorney, Ohio Living Will, Last Will and Testament and Durable Power of Attorney.  Your planning consultation is provided free of charge.  

Call 440-967-1529 or visit our website at to schedule your Four Documents planning appointment.

All information provided in our blog posts is intended for educational purposes only.  This article is not intended as, and should not be substituted for legal advice.  Attorney Burley is not your attorney unless you have signed an agreement and paid any required fees.

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