Bill Paxton died at age 61 from a stroke during heart surgery. Joan Collins died at age 81 from a heart attack during surgery. Anyone who undergoes surgery can die. Death is not the only risk of loss we face when surgery is an elective option or lifesaving necessity. Before, during and after surgery, the patient may be unavailable to make decisions due to anesthetics or conditions like a coma, induced or naturally occurring. A medical power of attorney document is used to appoint another person to make specific decisions on your behalf when you are unavailable to make your own decisions during medical events such surgeries. Even if the procedure for which surgery is scheduled is thought to be relatively common and low risk, medical mistakes and death are possible. Having your trusted family member or friend there to make decisions on your behalf is imperative.
Factors leading to medical mistake, negligence and malpractice
Hospital administrations and the healthcare professionals who practice medicine face systemic and organizational challenges that seem to open the door to medical error. When there are too many people doing too many tasks, it is too easy for one hand not to know what the other is doing. A simple copy and pasting error on an electronic medical record can lead to surgery on the wrong arm or leg. What if the error led to an amputation instead of a knee surgery? If you think those things never happen, spend some time reading blogs on the websites of medical malpractice attorneys.
The use and combination of medications can lead to medical problems. With so many new drugs pumped into the medical market, how can healthcare professionals keep it straight and know what combination of drugs might lead to a heart attack during surgery? What drugs might complicate the anesthetic process itself before surgery begins? What if the medical mistake leads to the decision to medically induce a coma while the doctors try to figure out how to keep you alive? With so many questions and possible scenarios, it seems crazy to walk through the door of any hospital or urgent care clinic without having a medical power of attorney and trusted person to make decisions for you when your life may be on the line.
Choosing the person who will have decision making authority
The first question your attorney may ask you when discussing the terms of your medical power of attorney is, “under what circumstances do you trust this person with your life?” The thought of trusting someone that much is compelling. You may worry they may not know how to make the best choices. If your alternative is a stranger in a medical uniform who doesn’t know you from the next patient, your most trusted ally can start to seem like a pretty good choice.
Another question may concern the conditions under which you want to be kept alive artificially. How long would it be okay to be on life support before the chances of recovery are so bleak that your family and friends just suffer. People can have a tough time saying goodbye and letting go. People may fear they are to blame for not doing more to save you. In choosing the person to be given the authority to make life saving decisions, make sure you agree with this person about your expectations and how they affect others around you. It is a good idea to bring the whole family in on these types of discussions.
What may be contained in your medical power of attorney document
In a nutshell, any decision you might be asked to make can be identified in your medical power of attorney. The most common determinations can involve choices in medical treatments and procedures. Various medicines and narcotics can expose a patient to potential side effects. The individual making decisions on your behalf should know your family and health history and genetics to make more informed decisions about drugs and antibiotics. Another decision may be to continue treatment or proceed to a surgery.
Note that you can narrowly tailor your medical power of attorney to limit certain decisions. You can grant your loved one the power to make medicine and treatment decisions but not decisions about surgery. You may also state that the individual may only make end of life decisions.
In an ideal setting, the person with medical power of attorney would be available to witness and oversee the entire medical process. They would keep an eye on surgeries to make sure the correct limb is operated on and not unintentionally removed instead; risk of medical error is serious. You may need to enquire with your doctor and local hospital to help make decisions about your medical power of attorney.
With all the best plans made, life still happens. What happens when your perfect medical power of attorney scenarios unravels because you are in a hospital in another country that may not recognize your power of attorney document? There are many complex questions in medical power of attorney decisions and it is important to ask as many of those questions while everyone is healthy and of sound mind, and not under stress and anxiety.
For more information about medical power of attorney decisions and getting your ducks in a row, contact The Barrows Firm in Southlake.
If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located at 700 East Southlake Boulevard in Southlake near the Town Square.
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