Pennsylvania provides a statutory means for competent adults to control their health care through instructions written in advance or by health care agents or representatives. Written instructions are known as Advance Health Care Directives. The term “Advance Health Care Directive” includes a “Medical Power of Attorney,” a “Living Will,” or a combination of both.
Living Will Pennsylvania
A Living Will is a written instruction made in accordance with Pennsylvania law that expresses a person’s wishes and instructions for health care and health care directions when a person is determined to be incompetent and has an “end-stage medical condition” or is “permanently unconscious.”
In a PA Living Will, you can decide, in advance, whether you want to initiate, continue, withhold or withdraw all forms of life-sustaining treatment. Without a Living Will in PA, these decisions are usually made by family members, which can lead to significant conflict.
“End-Stage Medical Condition” and “Permanently Unconscious”
An “end-stage medical condition” under PA law is defined as an incurable and irreversible medical condition in an advanced state caused by injury, disease or physical illness that will, in the opinion of the attending physician to a reasonable degree of medical certainly, result in death, despite the introduction or continuation of medical treatment.
Except as specifically set forth in an advance health care directive, the term is not intended to preclude treatment of a disease, illness or physical, mental, cognitive or intellectual condition, even if incurable and irreversible and regardless of severity, if both of the following apply: (1) the patient would benefit from the medical treatment, including palliative care; or (2) such treatment would not merely prolong the process of dying.
Pennsylvania law defines “permanently unconscious” as a medical condition that has been diagnosed as total and irreversible loss of consciousness and capacity for interaction with the environment. The term includes, without limitation, an irreversible vegetative state or irreversible coma.
PA Medical Power of Attorney
A Medical Power of Attorney in PA is a writing made by a principal designating an individual to make health care decisions for the principal in the event the principal becomes incapacitated or incompetent. The individual designated by the principal is known as the “attorney-in-fact” or “health care agent.” The attorney-in-fact has the legal authority to make any and all decisions regarding the principal’s medical care, including medical and surgical treatment or procedures and the administration of medications. A carefully drafted PA Medical Power of Attorney will incorporate these powers and will refer to any incidental powers that may be necessary to effectuate the document and to carry out all decisions pursuant thereto.
Selecting a Health Care Agent
Those named as health care agents under a PA Medical Power of Attorney are often the spouse of the principal, but your health care agent can be another family member, close friend, or anyone else you feel will see that your wishes and expectations are met. Our PA Advance Health Care Directive attorneys often recommend that you designate a primary agent and a contingent agent to act if the primary agent cannot act.
Contact Advance Health Care Directive Attorneys in PA
Once an estate planning attorney has completed your Advance Health Care Directive, you should sign it with a witness and a notary. The original Advance Health Care Directive should be kept in a safe and secure location. It is often advisable to give copies of the completed document to family members, a primary care physician or hospital, anyone named in the directive, and your attorney. Be sure that you have discussed the directive with the person you designate as your health care agent and that he or she understands your wishes and the responsibilities involved.
The experienced Advance Health Care Directive attorneys at The Martin Law Firm, located in Blue Bell, PA, have been assisting individuals, partners, and families in southeastern Pennsylvania for over 10 years. Our skilled estate planning team will help you to rest assured that your wishes are properly recorded and that they will be carried out at the appropriate time. Contact The Martin Law Firm for a free case evaluation at 215-646-3980.