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Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

The following information on advance directives is intended for informational purposes only and is subject to revision as the laws are changed. Specific questions should be directed to your physician or attorney, or you may contact a Mercy Chaplain at (515) 247-3238.

A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is a document through which you name another person known as your “attorney-in-fact” or “agent” to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. This agent is required to make decisions according to directions you provide; if your wishes are not known, your agent shall make decisions in your best interest.

Like a Living Will, a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care applies only when you are unable to make decisions regarding your health care. However, while a Living Will applies only if you are terminally ill and it is your intention to have self-sustaining procedures withheld or withdrawn, a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care lets you name an agent to make health care decisions in accordance with your wishes and its application is not limited to terminally ill patients or to decisions about life-sustaining procedures.

The person you name in a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care should be someone you trust and who has consented to act as your agent. The law does not permit your agent to be your physician, nurse or other person providing health care to you on the date you sign the document, or any employee of your physician, nurse or any hospital or health care facility providing care to you on the date you sign the document, unless that employee is one of your close relatives. It is advisable to name an alternate agent in case the person you appoint becomes unable or unwilling to act on your behalf.

Your agent can make any decision about your health care regarding treatment of your physical or mental condition, including decisions about whether to withhold or withdraw a feeding tube or intravenous feeding. In all cases, your agent must make decisions in accordance with your wishes. Therefore, it is important to discuss your wishes with the person you will name as your agent. You may also state your wishes on the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care document and limit the scope of your agent’s authority. If your agent does not know your wishes, he or she has a duty to act in your best interest.


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