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Healthcare Decisions

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

Note: SeaView IPA will not refuse to treat or otherwise discriminate against a member who has completed an Advanced Directive or Durable Power of Attorney.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care?

California law allows you to choose another person to make healthcare decisions if for any reason you are unable to speak for yourself. By completing a form called a "Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care" (DPAHC), you can appoint another person to be your health care "agent". This person will have legal authority to make decisions about your medical care if you are unconscious or otherwise cannot make these decisions yourself. You can also write down your healthcare wishes in the DPAHC form (for example, a desire not to receive treatment that only prolongs the dying process if you are terminally ill). Your agent must follow these instructions and must honor any other wishes you have made known.

A properly completed DPAHC provides the best assurance that your wishes will be respected if you become seriously ill and cannot speak for yourself.

Is a DPAHC different from a "Living Will"?

Yes. "Living wills" are documents that state your desire not to receive treatment if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious. The Living Will form, recognized under California law, is called a Natural Death Act Declaration. Whereas, a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare allows you to state your wishes about accepting or refusing life-sustaining treatment. Unlike a living will or Declaration, a DPAHC can also be used to state your desires about your health care in any situation in which you are unable to make your own decisions. In addition, only a DPAHC allows you to appoint someone you trust to speak for you when you are incapacitated.

Who can complete a DPAHC?

Any California resident who is at least eighteen (18) years old, of sound mind, and acting of his/her own free will can complete a valid DPAHC form.

Do I need a lawyer to complete a DPAHC?

No. You do not need the assistance of a lawyer to complete a standard printed DPAHC form (such as the form supplied by the California Medical Association) to be legally valid. The only exception is for individuals who have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility who wish to appoint their conservator as their agent.

Who can I appoint as my health care agent?

You can appoint any adult to be your agent. You can choose a member of your family, such as your spouse or an adult child, a friend, or someone else you trust. (If you appoint your spouse and later get divorced, the DPAHC is automatically invalidated.) You can also appoint one or more "alternate agents" in case the person you select as your health care agent is unavailable or unwilling to make a decision. It is important that you speak with the people you want to appoint to make sure they understand your wishes and agree to accept the responsibility.

The law prohibits you from appointing certain people to act as your agent. You may not choose your doctor or a person who operates a community care facility (sometimes called a "board and care" facility) or a residential care facility for the elderly. The law also prohibits you from appointing a person who works for your doctor, for the health facility in which you are being treated, for a community facility, or a residential care facility for the elderly, unless that person is related to you by blood, marriage or adoption.

It is recommended by the California Medical Association that you only name one person as your health care agent.

How much authority will my health care agent have?

If you become incapacitated, your agent will have authority over any other person to speak for you in health care matters. Your agent will be able to accept or refuse medical treatment, to have access to your medical records, to make decisions about donating your organs, authorizing an autopsy and disposing of your remains when you die. However, if you do not want your agent to have power over all of these areas, you can write a statement in the DPAHC form limiting your agent’s authority. In addition, the law says that your agent may not authorize convulsive treatment, psychosurgery, sterilization, abortion, or placement in a mental health treatment facility.

How long is a DPAHC valid?

A DPAHC form is valid for an indefinite period of time, unless you state in the form a specific date on which you want it to expire or the printed language in the form itself mentions a specific duration. Forms printed prior to January 1, 1992 generally expire at the end of seven years.

You can revoke or change a DPAHC form at any time. Simply inform everyone who received a copy of the form that it is no longer valid and destroy the copies. You should complete a new form if you want to name a different person as your agent or make other changes.

What should I do with the DPAHC form after I complete it?

Make sure the form has been properly signed, dated, and either notarized or witnessed by two qualified individuals (the form includes instructions about who can and cannot be a witness). Keep the original in a safe place and give photocopies of the completed form to the persons you have appointed as your agent and alternate agents, to your physician, family members or anyone else who is likely to be called if there is a medical emergency. Take a copy of the signed form with you if you are going to be admitted to the hospital, nursing home or other health care facility. Photocopies are accepted as though they are the original signed form.

Is my DPAHC form valid in other states?

A DPAHC form that meets the requirements of California law may or may not be honored in other states. If you spend a lot of time in another state, you may want to consult your doctor, lawyer, or the medical society in that state to find out about the laws there.

How can I obtain the form and/or get more information about the DPAHC?

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care forms that meet all legal requirements along with official brochures may be obtained in English and Spanish from the California Medical Association. Call (800) 882-1-CMA for ordering information.

The above information was obtained free off of the Internet at the following URL: Durable Power Info.

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