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What decisions someone make with a medical power of attorney

When people ask others to make decisions on their behalves, they are likely to choose people they trust. Selecting someone to have medical power of attorney (POA) in British Columbia gives that individual the authority to make decisions regarding health care for the person granting the power. In addition to health care, some of the decisions covered by a POA can be about nutrition, housing, hygiene, general safety and even clothing.

Those who intend on having a medical POA should be extremely specific on their instructions in the document. For instance, if the person has a life-threatening illness and is in a life or death situation, he or she should stipulate clearly a do not resuscitate order, if that is what is desired. In addition the document should outline what other medical care is or is not wanted if the writer of it is incapacitated and unable to make those decisions.

In British Columbia, a physician can override the POA by way of the British Columbia Health Care (Consent) and Care Facility (Admission) Act. A physician can decide to administer life-saving measures or to prevent mental or physical harm if the person appointed by way of a POA is not complying with his or her duties. A physician or other health care practitioner also can't be asked to do something illegal or ask to refrain from doing something if it is contrary to applicable law.

Understanding a medical power of attorney can be complicated. Getting the advice of a British Columbia lawyer to fashion such a document may mean the difference between it being legal or not. A lawyer's stamp of approval may hold more water in a court of law if such a document is ever challenged.

Source:, "If I give someone a medical power of attorney what decisions can they make on my behalf?", Miriam Yosowich, Accessed on April 13, 2018

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