You do not have to designate a family member as your health care power of attorney. There are many things to consider relative to how your family would be involved in your specific decisions. These are the major ones:
WOULD MY FAMILY BE NOTIFIED BEFORE DOCTORS STOP LIFE-SUPPORT TREATMENTS?
It is very likely your family would be informed. Although doctors do not need your family’s permission to follow the instructions provided through your Living Will, they are required to notify a person named in your Living Will, or a family member, before following your instructions to withdraw life-support. If that person feels your Living Will isn’t being properly followed, or isn’t legally valid, an immediate hearing can be scheduled in probate court to determine if there are legal grounds not to follow your instructions. By law, no one can change or overrule your Living Will if it was freely and correctly executed.
MY MOTHER IS IN A NURSING HOME. IF SHE GAVE ME HER HEALTH CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY, COULD I ACT ON HER BEHALF IN EVERY AREA AFFECTING HER TREATMENT?
Yes, but not until she is no longer able to make those decisions on her own behalf. A Health Care Power of Attorney covers not just life-sustaining treatment, but all aspects of medical treatment once the patient is unable to express his or her own wishes. A regular Power of Attorney over a relative’s business affairs doesn’t apply to medical situations. You need a special Health Care Power of Attorney.
IF I WANT TO DESIGNATE SOMEONE TO MAKE HEALTH CARE DECISIONS FOR ME, MUST IT BE A FAMILY MEMBER?
No. You may appoint any adult you wish as long as it isn’t your doctor or the administrator of a health care facility in which you are being treated.