Who has final say in healthcare decisions, a spouse or an attorney in fact?

Q: My 95-year-old stepmother is facing decisions about rehab options. My father, married to her for 27 years feels he should be the one to make decisions for his wife (she has dementia and Alzheimer’ disease). Her daughter feels that she should since she has durable POA. (Wilkins, Twp.)

A: It depends if the power of attorney contains a health care power of attorney. Generally, a general durable POA with no other title, authorizes an agent to handle financial matters. You will need to examine the POA. If it is not a health care POA, then the husband will likely be considered next of kin by the hospital and to whom they look with regard to medical and health care decision making.

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