By: Kara M. Eshenaur, Esquire
Estate planning attorneys have preached long and loud about the value of everyone having Power of Attorney documents. A Healthcare Power of Attorney (“Healthcare POA”) is especially critical now that we face the challenges brought on by COVID-19.
Hospitals nationwide are at capacity; hospital beds are filled with patients of all ages who have developed complications from COVID-19 infections. Patients diagnosed with COVID-19 are placed in quarantine and prohibited from seeing family and friends. Let’s take these two cases as examples:
- Mary, a twenty-six-year-old lives with her fiancé. Mary is an asthmatic and contracts COVID-19. She has to be hospitalized for three weeks. During that time, her fiancé cannot visit her. Additionally, healthcare privacy protection laws prevent medical personnel from sharing information about her medical status and treatment. This would not be the result if Mary had designated her fiancé as her agent under a valid Healthcare POA.
- Jim is an adult single man who lives alone. He is hospitalized for COVID-19. His parents may not be able to learn about his condition, or even where he is hospitalized, without a Healthcare POA.
A Healthcare POA enables a patient’s designated agent to receive information about a patient’s medical status and treatments. Healthcare POAs can also empower agents to make certain healthcare decisions for and on the behalf of a patient if the patient is unable to do so herself. There is no “one-size-fits-all” Healthcare POA; the powers granted in a Healthcare POA can be broad or limited to one or two specific powers.
Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney is the best way to ensure that you have a Healthcare POA which fits your needs and allows your loved ones to stay informed in the event of an emergency.
For more information on this subject, call Mette, Evans & Woodside at 717-232-5000.