A durable power of attorney is a legal document in which one person
grants another person the authority to make medical decisions if he or she
becomes unable to do so. The person chosen as the health care agent (or health
care proxy or surrogate) should understand and respect the person's wishes
about medical treatment.
In writing a durable power of attorney, a person may specify how
decisions are to be made. A durable power of attorney may also give the health
care agent the authority to make other types of decisions, including financial
A person must be mentally competent to complete this document. For
this reason, a person with a progressive brain disorder (such as Alzheimer's
disease) should consider drawing up this document as early as possible to avoid
later difficulties as judgment becomes impaired.
The document should be stored in a safe but easily accessible
place, and copies should be provided to one's doctor, attorney, and loved
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Shelly R. Garone, MD, FACP - Palliative Medicine