Even the healthiest people in Pennsylvania and elsewhere may experience sudden accidents or life-threatening illnesses that affect their ability to speak for themselves. This may leave their loved ones grappling with difficult decisions that must be made about their medical treatments and care. Therefore, it may be helpful for people of all ages and health conditions to set up health care powers of attorney. 

According to WebMD.com, health care powers of attorney allow people to name a personal representative to act as their agents in the event of incapacity that prevents them from speaking for themselves. These health care agents may be called upon to make medical-related decisions for the principals in the event they do not have living wills in place to specify their wishes or if situations arise that were not addressed in their other advance directives. 

When making the decision to assign someone their health care power of attorney, it is important for people to choose someone they can rely on to carry out their wishes. For example, an adult child may find it difficult to adhere to a parent’s preference not to be given CPR. Therefore, it is advisable for people to consider factors such as whether a potential health care agent understands their wishes regarding end-of-life care and life-saving treatment options, can set aside his or her own feelings about a medical option in order to carry out their wishes, and will be willing to stand up to medical professionals and ask challenging questions. 

According to Pennsylvania state law, a health care power of attorney only goes into effect when the attending physician determines the principal lacks the competency to make medical decisions for him or herself. Should the principals’ conditions improve and their health care providers determine they have regained their competency to make medical-related decisions and speak for themselves, health care powers of attorney become inoperative.