A healthcare power of attorney is an incredibly beneficial estate planning tool. However–like most estate planning matters–it is not something that either the creator or the individual with a power of attorney should take lightly.
It can be a heavy burden that comes with many responsibilities. And all of those responsibilities depend on a health care agent’s ability to act in good faith.
Making critical medical decisions can be complex
Establishing a healthcare power of attorney is one way that people can create an advance directive.
And when someone entrusts another with health care powers of attorney, they give them the ability to make decisions on their behalf if they are unable to speak for themselves. These decisions usually include:
- What treatment they receive, such as surgery or medications
- Where they should receive treatment
- Which medical professionals will care for them
All of these decisions could have a significant impact on someone’s life. And if they are not able to make those decisions themselves, it is essential to choose a person they know they can trust to handle these matters in their best interests.
What does it mean to act in good faith?
Exercising good faith is possibly the most important responsibility of every healthcare agent. It impacts every decision they make. Good faith generally means two things when it comes to medical care:
- The agent always puts their loved one’s wishes first.
- They do not let their own opinions or biases jeopardize their duty.
Healthcare agents have a duty to speak for their loved ones. That duty can be a challenge when the agent is also dealing with the emotional impacts of their loved one’s medical condition.
Acting in good faith allows them to preserve their loved one’s wishes and voice, while also reducing their own anxieties.
Good faith covers all of the responsibility of the power of attorney
A power of attorney document can be as detailed as the creator wants it to be. They have the power to limit the healthcare agent’s authority and identify their specific obligations. Or, they can give someone broad powers.
Regardless of what responsibilities a healthcare agent has, the standard of good faith applies to them all.
Understanding the importance of acting in good faith can help individuals choose the best agent for them. And it can also help healthcare agents understand their responsibilities as their representative.