Question: What is the difference between a living will and durable power of attorney for health care?

Answer:  A Living Will (sometimes referred to as a medical directive) is a document in which a person states whether or not life-sustaining procedures should be used to prolong the individual’s life.  Modern medicine is allowing people to live well beyond what human kind could have imagined.  Nevertheless, many are unwilling to suffer the loss of dignity (and financial net worth) as needed for prolonging their lives when death is imminent.  The Living Will generally provides safeguards so that two doctors need to examine the patient and determine that recovery is no longer likely before life sustaining measures may be removed.

A durable power of attorney for health care is  a document which allows a person to designate another person (an agent) to make medical decisions in the event the person can no longer make them on his own.  The power of attorney may cover a spectrum of issues, such as surgical procedures, nursing care, treatment options and access to records.

Comment: You should consider having both a living will and power of attorney.  However, some people do not wish to have a living will; rather, they give the decision as to whether or not to withdraw life sustaining treatments to their agent.