A medical power of attorney (MPOA) is a legal document that enables you to select a healthcare representative for yourself and authorize them to make health-related decisions for you, in the event of you losing your decision-making capacity.
Laws: Chapter 16 of Article 30 West Virginia Health Care Decisions Act governs the execution of medical powers of attorney in West Virginia.
If you’re creating a medical power of attorney, you might benefit from creating the following related documents:
Living Will: A living will records your preferences for medical treatment in the event of you being too ill or physically incapacitated to make decisions on your own. Like the MPOA, the living will is a type of advance directive.
West Virginia (Financial) Power of Attorney: This legal document allows you to select an agent you trust to manage your financial, legal, and property-related affairs.
How to Fill in a Medical Power of Attorney in West Virginia
Follow the steps below to ensure that you receive end-of-life care that is compliant with West Virginia Health Care Decisions Act. WV Code §16-30-4.
Step 1: Choose an agent
Your agent is your chosen healthcare representative who is authorized to make medical decisions for you if you are physically unable to do so.
Who should you choose as an agent?
Your chosen agent must be a competent adult (over the age of 18). They should be someone who knows enough about your personal values and beliefs to make medical decisions that you would make for yourself if you were not incapacitated.
Relevant Law: WV Code §16-30-6
Who can’t be your agent?
The following individuals cannot serve as your agents:
- The healthcare provider that is treating you
- An employee of your treating healthcare provider who is not related to you
- An operator of a healthcare facility that is serving you
- Any person who is an employee of the healthcare facility operator that is treating you and is not related to you
Relevant law: WV Code §16-30-4 (c)
Can you have more than one agent?
Yes, you can appoint up to two agents. The second agent acts as a substitute for the first agent in the event of their untimely absence.
Step 2: Specify what healthcare decisions your agent can make
To ensure that your agent acts in ways that reflect your personal wishes, your medical power of attorney can be customized to limit the extent of their decision making authority.
Can you limit your agent’s powers?
Yes, you can add instructions and specify treatment preferences to your medical power of attorney to restrict your agent from making certain healthcare decisions for you.
For example, if you do not want any medically administered feeding intervention during your treatment, you should specify so in your medical power of attorney. In the absence of such instructions, your agent can make any healthcare decision that they feel acts in your best interest.
What is your agent legally unable to do?
Your agent is legally unable to:
- Revoke your medical power of attorney unless you are available to verbalize your revocation
- Declare you as incapacitated. Only your healthcare provider is responsible for diagnosing and confirming your medical condition
When can your agent start making decisions for you?
Your agent can start making medical decisions for you only after your healthcare provider confirms your physical and mental unresponsiveness.
Relevant Law: WV §16-30-9
Step 3: Sign the form
Do you need witness or notary signatures?
Yes, for your medical power of attorney to be effective, WV law requires that it be:
- Signed by you in the presence of two witnesses
- Signed by the witnesses and a notary public
Relevant law: WV Code §16-30-4 (b)
Who can’t be a witness?
The following individuals cannot act as witnesses to your signing of the medical power of attorney:
- Your agent
- Anyone aged 17 or younger
- Anyone related to you by blood or marriage
- Your healthcare provider
- Anyone legally responsible for your medical expenses
- Anyone entitled to a share of your property
Relevant law: WV Code §16-30-4 (b)
How long is your West Virginia medical power of attorney effective?
Your medical power of attorney becomes effective upon your incapacitation and becomes ineffective only when it:
- is revoked upon the regaining of your capacity
- expires on the end date mentioned in the medical power of attorney document
How to Revoke a West Virginia Medical Power of Attorney
To revoke your medical power of attorney, you must be conscious and able to communicate your expression for revocation. The document can then be revoked by:
- Destroying the medical power of attorney (MPOA) by yourself or by asking someone else asked to do so.
- Notifying your healthcare provider in writing and asking them to revoke the MPOA.
- Verbally asking for the revocation of the MPOA in the presence of a witness at least 18 years of age. The witness must then write down the verbal expression, sign it, mention the date, time, and location, and present it to your healthcare provider.
If your agent is your spouse, then the MPOA is automatically revoked should you get a divorce.
Relevant Law: WV Code §16-30-18