Holding Hands

Covid-19 and Medical Powers of Attorney

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I normally try to sprinkle in some humor in these blog posts, but given the current situation, I am all out of jokes.  There is so much uncertainty. But, it seems likely that in the coming weeks:  

  • Many people will get sick and their family and doctors will have to make hard decisions about their medical care.  
  • Medical resources will be strained 
  • Travel may become more difficult  

Consequently, it is more important than ever to consider designating the right person to make healthcare decisions for you if you are incapacitated.  In Colorado, you can do this by having a “medical power of attorney.”  

What You Can Do Right Now To Protect Yourself & Your Loved Ones Amid Covid-19

  1. If you haven’t done so already, consider designating a person to make healthcare decisions for you if you are incapacitated.
  2. If you already have a medical power of attorney in place, reevaluate your current choice to ensure they are still the best person to make medical decisions for you.
  3. The person you designated may not be able to physically travel to your location or be present in the hospital.  Consider adding a provision allowing a second choice of agent to serve until your primary agent is reached. Also, be sure to include up-to-date contact information for your agent(s).
  4. Check in with aging parents to see if they have a medical power of attorney in place.   

How Can A Medical Power of Attorney Help During this Crisis?

The short answer is that a medical power of attorney can provide some clarity and improve efficiency in a medical crisis.  

Medical powers of attorney designate someone (your “medical agent”) to make medical decisions for you if you are unconscious or otherwise unable to make them yourself.  In a time of medical crisis, doctors and nurses will look to your designated medical agent to make decisions about your care. There will be one decision maker. The doctors and nurses scrambling to deal with a bad situation won’t have to look to a disorganized committee of shell-shocked family members.  This will be more important than ever in the near future.        

On a human level, this next part is hard to talk about.  But it is so helpful to give your family some guidance in case they ever have to make hard decisions about your medical care.  Unfortunately, I know this from experience. When my dad was terminally ill, the moment came when we had to make the decision to let him go.  Fortunately, when he was first diagnosed, he’d given one of us some criteria to use when making that decision. Believe me, you never want to be in the little conference room next to the ICU that has the single box of crappy tissue.  But, if your family is ever sitting in there, I can tell you that it will be easier for them to know that they made the right decision if you planned in advance and put your wishes in writing.

Furthermore, in the worst cases, if there is no designated decision maker and families can’t agree, they may have to go to court.  Going to court to resolve issues about what medical treatment you will or will not receive is obviously a bad outcome. As of this week, Colorado Courts are only handling a few serious criminal cases and a handful of other emergency matters, therefore having to resort to legal action would be even worse currently.

The bottom line is that having a medical power of attorney can help make a bad situation for you, your family and medical professionals a little less awful.   

Have You Selected the Best Agent and Included their Contact Information?

A person’s choice of medical agent is a personal one.  But, I counsel clients to choose a close friend or family member who they trust and who they believe has the capacity to take in medical information and make the best decisions based on that information.  Back before this “new normal” I had not considered the possibility that medical agents or successor medical agents would not be able to be present at the hospital once things became dire or shortly thereafter.  But, many hospitals are currently not allowing any visitors to slow the spread of the virus.   

I have checked with some medical professionals about this.  According to them, hospitals are communicating with medical agents via telephone.  So, you should make sure that your medical power of attorney includes your agent’s current contact information.  So, if you already have a medical power of attorney, please make sure that you have a copy handy and that it includes current contact information for your medical agent.  You may want to check in with your elderly parents or anyone for whom you are their medical agent to make sure their paperwork is updated and available in case they are hospitalized.  The medical professionals I spoke with informed me that they are able to receive copies of medical powers of attorney via email and fax if an individual does not have hard copies when hospitalized.   

If you have questions, please call The Law Office of Keenan Copple PC and we can discuss your options.     

Can I Get a Medical Power of Attorney and Maintain Social Distancing?

Yes.  In Colorado, Medical Powers of Attorney do not have to be witnessed or notarized.  Though I prefer to have medical powers of attorney witnessed and notarized, it is not a necessity.  Therefore, we can assist you with the drafting or revisions you need without ever having to have in-person contact.    

They are also unique in that unlike a will, a copy should be effective.  Therefore, I encourage all my clients to send a copy of their medical power of attorney to their designated medical agent and upload a copy so that their medical agent can pull it up on their smartphone or computer if they ever need to use it.   

If you have any questions at all about any of these issues, please call The Law Office of Keenan Copple PC today.  I am happy to talk things through with you and help any way I can. We can assist you by: 

  • Reviewing your existing medical power of attorney
  • Counseling you regarding your best choice of medical agent
  • Drafting your medical power of attorney

We can do all of this for free or at a very low cost and it can all be completed without you ever having to leave your home.  

This article has dealt primarily with medical powers of attorney.  However, there are other types of advanced medical directives in Colorado, which you can learn about HERE.  

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