Powers Of Attorney For Health Care

I know I’ve written on this subject many times before, but I wanted to bring it up again. This past weekend I read an excellent article in the New Yorker magazine about end of life issues. It was written by a practicing surgeon and physician, Atul Gawande, who regularly writes well informed articles on health issues.

My motivation for encouraging clients to sign powers of attorney, particularly ones for health care, is more social and legal than economic. Having one in place may avoid or prolong the need for guardianship’s and allows a family to avoid disputes in what may be an uncertain and emotional time. However, the article pointed out the great cost savings, both to the family and society in general, is something well worth considering. Quoted was our own Dr. Thompson from Gundersen Lutheran here in La Crosse. He reports the existence of powers of attorney for health care has dramatically lowered costs for those at the end of their life. The powers do this both by empowering someone to make a decision and to provide a means of communicating to health care providers what the patient actually wants done or not done to them when they can longer decide.

The article also made clear that while the powers of attorney for health care are important in and of themselves, they are also important for the discussions they may trigger. So please have those all-important conversations with your loved ones about End Of Life issues; don’t forget that signing them in my office isn’t the end of the process. The powers are ongoing and should result in ongoing discussion with your loved ones about their wishes.