A power of attorney is a legal document that appoints someone to act as the grantor's attorney in fact, allowing the agent to make legal decision on behalf of the grantor. It can be general or specific in nature. A durable power of attorney for healthcare is one that specifically gives the agent the power to make healthcare decisions for the grantor. As it is a durable power of attorney, it does not terminate upon the incapacity of the grantor like other power of attorneys.
A power of attorney is also legal tool that allows a person to give someone else the authority to complete business transactions or sign legal documents in his or her absence. It may terminate at a specific time pursuant to the terms of the power of attorney or upon the death of the grantor. It also traditionally terminates upon the incapacity, physical or mental, of the grantor. As this is often when a person needs someone else to be able to act on his or her behalf, the law created a durable power of attorney, which does not terminate upon the incapacity of the grantor. A durable power of attorney will only terminate upon the death of the grantor or if revoked by the grantor.
Any type of power of attorney can be made durable by adding the appropriate language into the document. A durable power of attorney for healthcare is a common format used specifically to give another person the right to make decision regarding medical treatment, or the withholding of medical treatment. A durable power of attorney for healthcare differs from a living will in that a living will specifies the wishes of the maker, but does not appoint someone as his or her attorney in fact.
The grantor of a durable power of attorney for healthcare can make the document as specific or as general as he or she wishes. For instance, the grantor may specify that the agent has the authority to make treatment decisions, but not to terminate treatment or remove life support. Within the United States, state law will determine what language is required in a durable power of attorney if the grantor wishes to give the agent to power to terminate life support or withhold life support; however, most states require some type of very specific language before the agent can make those decisions on behalf of the grantor.