medical decision-making while being incapacitated

Medical Decisions: How Are They Made If You’re Incapacitated

Understanding how to make medical decisions when incapacitated is fundamental if you’re incapable of handling your affairs. Even though you may have once been able to shower, handle financial and legal issues, or purchase goods independently in the past, there’s a possibility you may not be able to do these things if you’re incapacitated. If this describes you, you may have to hand over your decision-making power to a loved one. So, read this article to learn just how medical decisions are made when you’re incapacitated.

What are MPOAs (Medical Power of Attorney)?

An MPOA is a durable power of attorney validated by a document such as a printable medical power of attorney. Using this document, you can select an agent or attorney-in-fact to make critical decisions related to healthcare for you.

How Are MPOAs Different from a General Power of Attorney?

The main differences between MPOAs and a General Power of Attorney are the decisions your agent can make on your behalf. If you have a General Power of Attorney, your agent can make a wide range of decisions for you – anything that’s not legally prohibited. If you have an MPOA, your agent can only make medical-related decisions for you.

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What is the Meaning of Legal Incapacity?

The phrase “legal incapacity” refers to people who can’t handle their affairs or medical and physical health because they lack the mental or physical ability to do so. If a person is not legally competent and cannot complete legal affairs independently, they are “legally incapacitated.” For this reason, seeking an MPOA might be critical.

What Causes Legal Incapacity?

Several factors can cause legal incapacity. Not only can physical injury lead to legal incapacity, but particular mental illnesses and dementia are factors that can cause someone to become legally incapacitated.

Old age, comas, and the inability to make decisions independently are three other factors that can cause legal incapacity. In this case, you may decide to issue a medical power of attorney to keep your affairs in order.

How is Legal Incapacity Determined?

To be declared legally incapacitated, you must have this determined by the court. A medical team will complete various tests to evaluate your health and capability during the process. The medical team will provide evidence and opinions about your health, and the court will review the evidence to decide.

Who Can Make Medical Decisions for Legally Incapacitated Patients?

An appointed, trusted person will make medical decisions on your behalf for legally incapacitated patients. The appointed, trusted person is known as an agent who will ensure your wishes are fulfilled.

What Factors Should You Consider When Choosing an Agent if You’re Incapacitated?

There are a few factors to consider when choosing an agent if you’re incapacitated, including whether the person is trustworthy and understands your requests or wants. It’s also important to appoint a second or alternative agent.

1. Consider whether the person is trustworthy

Even if your wants or requests are not what your agent wants, they should be fulfilled – this is why trustworthiness is crucial to consider when choosing an agent. No matter how difficult a decision may be, such as switching off life support, your agent should be able to divorce themselves from their own opinion and complete your request as you would have wanted it.

2. Think about whether the person understands your wants

The agent you select should understand what you want for yourself. Does your agent know you well enough, and have they discussed your wants with you beforehand? Are they capable of understanding your wishes and putting your wants into action in the way you’ve discussed them?

How are medical decisions made for incapacitated people?

Incapacitated people can guide decisions related to their medical care using an advanced directive. Advanced directives are legal documents that establish a power of attorney that corresponds to health care decisions.

As part of this process, a physician will involve you as much as possible, even if you have appointed a surrogate to make your decisions. The physician will have a few ethical responsibilities to help you make decisions when incapacitated, including:

  • Identifying the right surrogate to make choices for you
  • Offer advice and support to the agent or surrogate
  • Help the agent or surrogate make decisions

In Which Situations Can You Reverse a Medical Power of Attorney?

There are a few examples of scenarios in which you can reverse a medical power of attorney. If your medical condition improves or awakens from a coma, you can revoke a medical power of attorney.

medical decision-making while being incapacitated

In other words, if you can demonstrate that you’re now able to reclaim responsibility and handle your affairs after recovery, you can rescind the medical power of attorney.

Getting the Essential Facts on Medical Incapacitation: Key Points

Remember, if you’re transitioning your decision-making power to an agent due to illness, ensure you get all the essential facts on medical incapacitation. Don’t forget to ask legal experts for all the required advice and make your decision based on the facts for the best possible outcomes.

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