Also known as a health care proxy, durable power of attorney for health care involves appointing another person or entity to make one’s medical decisions in the case of incapacitation, or the inability to make decisions for oneself. The proxy has a vital role in acting on behalf of the person and carrying out intended wishes in tandem with medical treatment providers. For this reason, it makes sense to discuss the full range of issues and scenarios that may potentially be involved in advance, including artificial nutrition, resuscitation, hydration, and mechanical ventilation.
The living will is also a type of advance directive, and covers many of the same medical treatment pathways that would or would not be pursued on one’s behalf should communication no longer be possible. A major difference is that, with language such as “incurable or irreversible condition with no reasonable expectation of recovery” in play, the scope of medical situations to which the living will applies is typically much narrower. Naming a trusted proxy is for many a better pathway to ensure that health care is carried out in line with one’s wishes at times when clearly articulating those wishes has become difficult or impossible.