Can I change mom's primary doctor without her consent and without power of attorney?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 03, 2016
Mixedup asked...

Can my husband and I change his mothers primary doctor without her consent and without POA or medical POA?


Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com 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.

Ideally, every person is entitled to seek out the best and most fitting medical care possible. But in the real world, we are up against the frustrating constraints you are likely experiencing: The patient is stubborn, unwilling, or afraid to change providers. The provider diligently defends the need to maintain the patient's privacy, so blocks out others' attempts at help or intervention. The patient's condition makes him or her unable to make a sound and suitable decision about a care provider.

The first guiding practical and legal issue is your mother-in-law's mental capacity. If she still has the ability to understand decision related to her own medical care, then she has the right to decide who her practitioners should be, whether or not you agree with the decision. There may be ways, however, you may be able to help "guide" her choices"”for example, by seeking out other fitting and available practitioners and helping orchestrate an appointment just to see whether they're a good fit. If your mother-in-law seems reluctant to take that kind of direction from you or your husband, you might consider enlisting help someone else she knows and trusts"”perhaps a friend, neighbor, or even a clergy person who has had a good experience with a particular practitioner.

If the situation is more dire"”that is, you feel that your mother-in-law lacks the capacity to make her own meaningful medical decisions"”then you may need to consider the more drastic step of securing a legal guardianship or conservatorship in which a court would appoint another person to be legally responsible for making medical care decisions for her.

This type of legal protection is generally secured through the local probate or superior court. For more information on the basics of how the arrangement works and how to obtain it, go to www.caring.com/adult-guardianship.