Does an advanced directive for health care agents supersede a durable power of attorney for medical decisions, if you have both?

1 answer | Last updated: Nov 23, 2016
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Does an advance directive for health care supersede a durable power of attorney for medical decisions if you have both?

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

Take a close look at both documents. It may be that they were intended to work together.

Sometimes, an advance directive is used to specify what type of medical care a person would want to receive if he or she became unable to specify it, and the power of attorney is used solely to designate a person to supervise those wishes.

If the two documents conflict, however, perhaps with one giving the agent complete discretion to act and the other specifying particular medical care, then the law specifies that the document that was made the most recently will control.

If you are in the unfortunate position that the documents conflict and were finalized on the same day, you are more at the mercy of the doctors at the hospital or other medical facility, who should attempt to enforce written wishes as best they can. In confused cases, a medical review board will sometimes be called upon to make the final determination.