There are three planning documents that you need to have in place in case something happens that renders you unable to make your own health care decisions. These documents are: Health Care Power of Attorney; HIPAA authorization; and Living Will.
A Health Care Power of Attorney allows you to name whomever you want to make health care decisions if you become incapable of making decisions yourself. The health care decisions that may be made for you can range from routine medical treatment to end-of-life decisions such as the withdrawal of procedures that artificially prolong life.
A federal law known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) prohibits your doctors or other health care providers from discussing or disclosing your health information. A HIPAA authorization allows you to name the persons you want to have access to your information. This is especially important for the persons you name to make your health care decisions.
By a Living Will, you direct what is to happen if your doctors certify that you are dying and the use of life-prolonging procedures would serve only to artificially prolong your dying process. You may direct that such procedures be withheld and that you be permitted to die naturally with or without artificially supplied nutrition and hydration.
Your planning for the future is not complete unless you have these three documents in place.