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Why your living will and power of attorney matter

Imagine getting hit by a car. You have a young family, so you take their advice and head to the emergency room. There, you passed out and woke up several hours later unable to speak or move.

Injuries you weren’t aware of resulted in brain damage. You can’t talk to anyone, and it’s hard for you to respond to questions. What happens to you now?

The importance of a living will

If you have a living will, which is also known as a health care directive, then you are already aware that someone will help you if you become unable to answer or respond completely. If you are unconscious or terminally ill, the directive tells doctors what you want to have happen.

In your case, you’re not permanently unconscious, but you’re not able to speak for yourself either. Initially, if your spouse isn’t there and you are unconscious, the living will can tell doctors your wishes and if you want them to try every life-saving technique or surgery they need to perform. If not, your living will can state that you don’t want them to take any measures to prolong your life.

What is the difference between a living will and durable power of attorney?

The durable power of attorney gives someone the legal power to make decisions on your behalf if you cannot. For example, if you are in surgery and a doctor asks your POA about using a technique or changing the surgical procedure, he or she could decide if that’s appropriate or not. The POA has all the power in that situation, making decisions on your behalf.

The person you appoint as your POA may be a spouse or someone else. It’s a good idea to have a POA along with a living will, so any medical situation that arises is covered.

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