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Common incapacity documents

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (DPAHC)/Health-Care Proxy
Advantages Disadvantages
  • Is flexible--allows your representative to act on your behalf and make medical decisions based on current circumstances
  • Generally, your representative can make any decision you would be allowed to make
  • Generally can be used any time you become incompetent
  • Not practical in an emergency--your representative must be present to act on your behalf
  • Not permitted in some states
Living Will
Advantages Disadvantages
  • Allows you to convey decisions regarding your medical care without relying on any one person to carry out your wishes
  • Generally can be used only if you are terminally ill or injured, or in a persistent vegetative state
  • Generally used only to make decisions regarding life-sustaining treatments
  • Emergency medical personnel generally cannot withhold emergency care based on a living will
  • Not permitted in some states
Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order
Advantages Disadvantages
  • Allows you to decline CPR if your heart or breathing fails
  • Effective in an emergency--your doctor should note an in-hospital DNR order on your chart. Out-of-hospital DNR orders take various forms, depending on the laws of your state. ID bracelets, MedicAlert

    ®

    necklaces, and wallet cards are some methods of noting DNR status.

  • Some states allow DNR orders only for hospitalized patients--others do not restrict eligibility
  • Only used to decline CPR in case of cardiac or respiratory arrest
  • Not permitted in some states
Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA)
Advantages Disadvantages
  • You control who acts and what they can do with your property
  • Low cost to implement
  • Decreases the chance of court intervention
  • Some states do not permit a "springing" DPOA (i.e., a DPOA that is effective only after you have become incapacitated)