Of the many decisions our members need to make at a critical call, deciding who can speak for or represent the non-verbal patient (or be given information about the injured party) can be a dilemma – medically, legally and emotionally both for the family and the providers.
We often encounter family members who have a duly executed Durable Power of Attorney and/or a Health Care Power of Attorney. In cases where the patient is alive yet unconscious or otherwise unable to make their own medical decisions on an informed and rational basis, a Health Care Power of Attorney will be honored to allow the patient’s named “agent” to make medical decisions for them.
Many problems arise when the patient is clinically deceased (sudden cardiac stoppage) and resuscitation efforts need to be immediately started. An agent may not consent to a Do Not Resuscitate order (“DNR”) on behalf of the patient – only a DNR directed by the patient and signed by a licensed health care practitioner will be honored, and must be present either in its full length or via a wallet card provided by the State of New Hampshire.
Other issues present when a patient suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia, or is otherwise incompetent and unable to make rational decisions about their health care. A Health Care Power of Attorney (with the right language) will let the agent give consent for, or override a patient’s objection to, medication and hospitalization.
New Hampshire law now allows certain immediate family members, such as spouses, parents, siblings or adult children, to make decisions for a loved one in the absence of a Health Care Power of Attorney, as long as it is reasonable for them to do so in the eyes of the EMS provider. Nevertheless, having a good, up-to-date Health Care Power of Attorney in place is, by far, the most effective way to ensure a patient receives appropriate and timely care.
Estate planning attorneys can assist you in preparing these crucial documents as they remain abreast of changes in the law. Help us to help you in avoiding a conflict at the time of an emergency.
Questions? Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. I welcome your feedback.
P.S. A special thanks for her gracious contribution of legal content to Attorney Jessica M. Powers of Forman, Clark & Associates, P.A., 74 Gilcreast Road, P.O. Box 1330, Londonderry, New Hampshire 03053-1330. Attorney Powers specializes in estate planning.