Healthcare Powers of Attorney

A Healthcare Power of Attorney is a document in which you give another person (your agent) the power to make decisions about your care. If you want to name someone to make healthcare decisions for you, you should sign a healthcare power of attorney no matter what other documents you have.

Frequently asked questions about a Healthcare Power of Attorney:

How is a healthcare power of attorney different from a normal power of attorney?

A healthcare power of attorney is a document in which you give another person (your agent) the power to make decisions related to your care. A normal power of attorney gives a person the power to make decisions about your money, property or business transactions. A normal power of attorney, however, will not necessarily allow your agent to make healthcare decisions for you. If you want an agent to be able to make healthcare decisions for you, you should sign a healthcare power of attorney no matter what other documents you may have. If you want an agent to make decisions about money, you will need a different power of attorney.

Whom should I appoint as my agent? What if my agent cannot serve?

You should appoint a person you trust and who knows how you feel about healthcare. You should also name an alternate in case your agent is unwilling or unable to serve. You should talk to the persons you choose as your agent and alternate to be sure they are willing to serve, and so that they know how you feel about healthcare.

Why should I sign a healthcare power of attorney?

You may become unable to make healthcare decisions for yourself. You can name the person who will make these decisions for you by signing a healthcare power of attorney. Through this person, you can make sure you continue to control your own healthcare. Without such a document, the courts may be called upon to make the decisions or to appoint another person to make them.

What can I authorize an agent to do for me in a healthcare power of attorney?

You can authorize your agent to make healthcare decisions for you in case you become unable to make decisions for yourself. In your healthcare power of attorney, you may tell your agent that you do or do not want blood transfusions, life support, CPR, feeding tubes, dialysis, etc.

What are the requirements for signing a healthcare power of attorney?

At least two persons must sign the document as witnesses when you sign it. Only one hospital employee can serve as a witness. Information is listed on the document about who can or cannot serve as a witness. You do not have to record your healthcare power of attorney for it to be valid.

What if I change my mind?

You can revoke your healthcare power of attorney at any time while you are competent by informing your agent or doctor that you have changed your mind.

Where should I keep my healthcare power of attorney?

Keep the original in a safe place where your family members can get it. You should also give a copy to as many of the following persons you are comfortable with: family members, physician, attorney, minister, priest or clergyman, agent. Do not put your only copy of these documents in your safe deposit box.

Should I consider signing both a healthcare power of attorney and a living will?

Yes, because each document has advantages that are not available from the other. A healthcare power of attorney allows the person or agent of your choice to decide, after considering all of the facts, what you would want under the circumstances.

If I do not have a healthcare power of attorney or a living will, who will make healthcare decisions for me?

If you are unable to make healthcare decisions, South Carolina law chooses persons who can make those decisions for you, or the courts may be called upon to make the decisions or to appoint someone else to make them. If you want to be sure the person who makes decisions for you is familiar with your wishes, you should appoint an agent in a healthcare power of attorney.

Are healthcare power of attorneys and living wills that were signed in another state valid in South Carolina?

If you have signed a healthcare power of attorney in another state, you should have it reviewed by a lawyer to be sure it is valid in South Carolina. A living will that is valid in another state will probably be accepted in South Carolina. To be safe though, you should sign the living will form approved by the South Carolina legislature.

What if I have an old healthcare power of attorney?

In May, 1992, South Carolina approved a standard healthcare power of attorney form. If you filled out your healthcare power of attorney form before that date, you may want to sign the revised form which has a few small changes.

For more information, you may contact our Case Management Department at 366-3264.