A Medical Power of Attorney is the legal authority to make medical decisions for someone else. This authority can be given temporarily (e.g. if you’re set to undergo surgery during which you’ll be put under) or permanently (e.g. if you enter into a coma or other state of incapacitation).
In South Carolina (SC), a Medical Power of Attorney is referred to as a Health Care Power of Attorney, but it may also be called a Medical Power of Attorney or Healthcare Power of Attorney.
These documents make up what’s called an Advance Directive.
Laws: Title 62, Article 5, Sections 501-518 of the South Carolina Code of Laws govern the creation of MPOA in the state.
If you’re completing a Health Care POA in South Carolina, you may also benefit from the following documents:
- Living Will: Also called a “Declaration of Desire for a Natural Death” in SC, a Living Will records your wishes relating to end-of-life procedures. This document provides instructions for your medical professionals and your MPOA agent if you can’t communicate.
- SC (Financial) Power of Attorney: This document lets you appoint someone to handle your financial affairs in certain situations (like if you become incapacitated).
How to Fill in a Health Care Power of Attorney in South Carolina
Follow these guidelines for creating a valid form according to S.C. Code Ann. §62-5-501 to §62-5-518:
Step 1: Choose an agent
Your agent also called your healthcare representative, is responsible for your medical decisions if you become incapacitated.
Who should you choose as an agent?
Your agent must be a competent individual over the age of 18 whom you trust to act on your behalf regarding important healthcare decisions.
Relevant law: S.C. Code Ann. §62-5-503
Who can’t be your agent?
Unless they’re related to you, the following people can’t be your agent:
- Your healthcare provider
- Your healthcare provider’s employee
- The spouse of your healthcare provider or their employee
- An employee of a nursing facility where you live
Relevant law: S.C. Code Ann. §62-5-503
Can you have more than one agent?
You can’t appoint more than one agent to serve at the same time, but you may designate one or more successor agents to take over if the original agent is unable to fulfill their duties.
Relevant law: S.C. Code Ann. §62-5-511
Step 2: Specify what healthcare decisions your agent can make
In this section, consider what decisions you would or wouldn’t want your agent to make on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
Can you limit your agent’s powers?
Yes, you can include language within the Health Care Power of Attorney limiting the actions the agent can take on your behalf. If you don’t limit your agent’s power, they can make nearly any medical decision you would normally make, including decisions regarding:
- Life-sustaining treatment
- Organ donation
- Treatment facilities
- Pain management and comfort care
- Medical records
You can also describe your wishes for certain medical decisions. Your agent must follow any instructions you leave in the health care POA document.
Relevant law: S.C. Code Ann. §62-5-517
What is your agent legally unable to do?
The agent can’t act in any way that goes against your instructions in the form. If you also have a living will (declaration of desire for a natural death), your agent also can’t make a decision that goes against the instructions in this document.
Your agent also can’t withdraw or withhold life-sustaining care if you don’t specifically authorize them to make this decision for you in the document. Additionally, the agent can’t withdraw life-sustaining treatment if you’re pregnant.
Relevant law: S.C. Code Ann. §62-5-505, §62-5-507, and §62-5-509
When can your agent start making decisions for you?
The agent can begin making healthcare-related decisions on your behalf only if you’re incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself.
Relevant law: S.C. Code Ann. §62-5-504
Step 3: Sign the form
Be sure you sign the form according to SC requirements so it’s legally binding. If you can’t sign yourself, you can direct someone else to sign for you in your presence.
Do you need a witness or notary signature?
Yes, a South Carolina Health Care Power of Attorney requires two witnesses who are unrelated to the principal to witness your signature. If you don’t sign in front of your witnesses, you must acknowledge that your signature is valid in their presence. You may, but aren’t required to, have the document notarized.
Who can’t be a witness?
A witness can’t be any of the following:
- Someone related to you (the principal) through blood, marriage, or adoption
- A person financially responsible for your medical care
- A beneficiary of your estate, life insurance policy, or other financial interests
- Your agent or successor agent
- Your physician
- Your physician’s employee
Additionally, only one of your witnesses can be an employee of the healthcare facility where you receive treatment.
Relevant law: S.C. Code Ann. §62-5-503 and §62-5-504
How long is your Health Care Power of Attorney effective in South Carolina?
In South Carolina, a Health Care Power of Attorney remains in effect indefinitely unless the principal dies or revokes the current form.
How to Revoke a South Carolina Health Care Power of Attorney
A Health Care Power of Attorney may be revoked in one of several ways:
- Notifying your agent or health care provider that the document is terminated
- Writing a Revocation of Power of Attorney form
- Executing another form that has different terms
- Executing a Durable Power of Attorney that states your intention that the Health Care POA can be revoked
If your spouse is your agent and you get a divorce, their powers as a healthcare agent are revoked, but the document can still remain valid if it names successor agents.
Relevant law: S.C. Code Ann. §62-5-512