News reports reveal that America is increasingly becoming a nation of single people. For adults navigating life solo, careful planning about who will make health care decisions on their behalf in the face of unforeseen, incapacitating illness is a smart decision, especially for singles who are childless, have minor children and/or are estranged from their families. One available option is an advanced directive called a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) for health care. It allows singles to appoint an agent to step in and carry out their wishes when they are unable to make critical medical decisions for themselves.
Most states have enacted advanced directives legislation. This contract allows a person, called a principal, to designate to a selected agent the power to make decisions about the course of medical care should the principal become incapacitated. Decisions covered by a DPOA for health care include such things as the power to consent to or withdraw treatment for physical or mental conditions, or to determine when to initiate or terminate life-sustaining treatment.
Health care DPOA gives singles autonomy
The beauty of a health care DPOA is that it gives single people who do not have extended family members or family they trust the ability to exercise control in situations where decisions about their medical care could fall into the hands of people who do not know the person’s preferred course of medical care. For singles in this predicament, the DPOA for health care offers the option to select friends or loved ones as agents to act on their behalf and according to their wishes, without having to confer with distant or untrustworthy relatives.
Safeguards require agents to act on behalf of the principal with the same care that a reasonable person would employ under similar circumstances and not go beyond the scope of power set forth in the health care DPOA. Should an agent act negligently or exceed the designated power, they can be held personally liable.
Age is nothing but a number
Age should not be a factor for singles carefully planning for their future, as accidents and debilitating illnesses can happen at any time. Residents who are at least 18 years old and have the legal capacity to enter into a contract can establish a DPOA for health care. The document must be in writing, signed by the principal and at least one additional witness, and it must be notarized
A health care DPOA can be drafted to become effective when the principal specifies. If it takes effect at the signing, the agent can immediately begin making medical decisions on behalf of the principal. However, even if a principal chooses to make the DPOA effective immediately, they still retain the right to make decisions about their medical care as long as they have the legal capacity to do so.
A DPOA for health care can be revoked
A principal can revoke a DPOA for health care at any time regardless of their mental or physical state. It can be revoked by obliterating, burning, tearing or otherwise destroying or defacing it in a manner that shows the principal’s intention to revoke it; if the principal signs or directs someone acting on their behalf to sign a written revocation; or through a verbal expression or way that clearly indicates the principal wishes to revoke the health care DPOA. This form of revocation must be witnessed by someone who is at least 18 years old and requires a written, signed and dated statement confirming the expression of intent was made.
Why a DPOA for health care is a smart choice for singles
Designating a person who can quickly make health care decisions saves time, and the emotion and expense of having a court decide who will make health care decisions for an incapacitated single person.
As the number of single people in America increases at the same time that advanced technologies offer new life-saving medical breakthroughs and the opportunity for longer life, the time for singles to make decisions about their futures is now.