It is not unusual for a person to be incapacitated without leaving a person designated as their medical power of attorney. This is the reason that lawyers and health care workers alike encourage all people to draw up a living will and other paperwork making their wishes clear. Things can become very complicated if there is no medical power of attorney and important decisions must be made.

While it is not always clear who should make important decisions on your behalf, there are some people who are more likely to be given this power, which is also called health care proxy. If you have a spouse or civil partner, they will be the first choice. If you do not, then one of your adult children or a parent will be designated. Other family members, such as siblings, may be given the power to make medical decisions for you if you do not have children or parents who are capable of doing this.

For people who do not have family who are capable of making these decisions, or in cases where these people cannot be located, the decision of who to put in charge of end-of-life decisions becomes more complicated. In addition, there may be times when the patient’s children or other relatives disagree. This can lead to long court cases, during which the patient remains on expensive and sometimes painful life support.

When there is no next of kin to be placed in charge, a trusted friend may be used. If even a responsible friend cannot be found, then the medical staff will ask the courts to appoint a medical power of attorney. This person will be paid to act as power of attorney and make decisions on the patient’s behalf. Because this person has likely never met the patient, it is unlikely that their wishes will be exactly what the patient would have chosen.

End of life decisions such as when to withdraw life support are some of the most important that will be made in the patient’s life. As such, it is important for all people to have a living will that expresses what care they want to have under different circumstances as well as who they wish to make these and other important decisions for them.

To speak to an attorney, contact the Law Office of Dan Kellogg today. Contact us online or by calling (425) 227-8700.