Medical Power of Attorney, DC

Understand the essentials of a medical power of attorney, DC. Ensure your healthcare decisions are in trusted hands when you can’t decide.


What Is a Medical Power of Attorney?

As unpleasant as it is to imagine, everyone gets sick or injured at different points. In some cases, the sick person may be incapable of making important decisions about their medical care. If that happens, the person’s doctors and relatives will likely decide their fate without considering their preferences (since they cannot express them at that point).

If you’re ever in that position, would you like to leave such crucial decisions about your health care and possibly your life to anxious family members or detached medical personnel? Or would you prefer to take charge of your life and decide what’s best for you despite your incapacity? If you prefer the latter alternative, consider creating a medical power of attorney.

A medical power of attorney is an important legal document that allows you to appoint someone you trust (known as an agent or attorney-in-fact) to act on your behalf when you’re unable to make your own health care decisions. It also allows you to leave specific instructions about your medical care and well-being to be carried out by the person appointed.

For Washington DC residents, a medical power of attorney goes beyond leaving instructions for your future medical care. There are important legal provisions you must comply with if your medical power of attorney must fulfill its purpose. As such, you may need professional help from an estate planning attorney to make a valid one. The information here offers some general guidelines to help you understand the process before you get started.  

Who Should Have a DC Medical Power of Attorney?

Anyone over 18 can make a medical power of attorney regardless of their medical record. It is better to make your medical power of attorney when you’re strong and healthy, so there is no doubt about your intention. But it is crucial to have one in the following circumstances:

  • If you are getting a surgical procedure that requires anesthesia
  • If you’re a senior citizen
  • If you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness

With your medical power of attorney, you can leave instructions about specific healthcare wishes, including your preferred healthcare facility or health care personnel in different circumstances. This can make things easier for your loved ones in the event of your incapacity. All they need to do is focus on being by your side while your appointed agent or attorney makes the difficult choices according to your instructions.

What Does a Medical Power of Attorney Cover?

A medical power of attorney covers your health care decisions if you cannot make them. It also authorizes the agent or attorney-in-fact named in it to make decisions on your behalf concerning:

  • Pain management options, including whether to accept or decline resuscitative measures.

  • Acceptance or refusal of blood transfusions.

  • Moving to a different medical facility and/or care setting, such as an assisted living home.

  • Your desire for research studies if your agent agrees to participate in them on your behalf.

  • Any other instruction related to life-sustaining treatment that you may want to be included in your document.

Suppose you need help understanding medical power of attorney in DC; contact an experienced estate planning attorney like Kevin C. Martin for guidance. He is well-versed in drafting and executing a valid medical power of attorney that works best for you. That way, you can rest assured that your wishes will be respected even when you cannot decide about your health care.

Qualities of a Valid DC Medical Power of Attorney

According to the Code of the District of Columbia, a valid DC medical power of attorney should meet certain requirements, including the following:

Written Form

In DC, healthcare instructions issued orally do not qualify as a medical power of attorney. You need to leave your instructions in written form so there can be no doubt about your true intentions. The DC Code provides a sample medical power of attorney form for guidance.


Donation of Authority

The language of your DC medical power of attorney must show that you intend to transfer healthcare decision-making powers to your appointed agent.


You’ll need to sign the medical power of attorney document in the presence of two adult witnesses (other than you or your health care provider). The witnesses are there to affirm that you made the medical power of attorney with a sound mind and without coercion.

One of the witnesses can be your family member or beneficiary in your will. Still, the second has to be someone unrelated to you.

A DC medical power of attorney that fails to comply with these or any other legal requirement is ineffective and cannot serve your purpose. You can avoid such pitfalls by consulting a skilled DC estate planning attorney before you proceed. They can ensure that the final document is valid and enforceable.

Choosing Your Agent or Attorney-In-Fact

You can appoint any adult (18 and above) who is mentally competent as your medical attorney-in-fact. The person appointed should be someone you’re certain will make credible healthcare decisions that align with your written instructions. 

You can appoint more than one agent to share decision-making authority equally. But this arrangement can cause problems where they need to agree with one another concerning certain decisions. A good estate planning attorney can help you work out a schedule of duties for each agent to minimize or eliminate conflict as much as possible.

Regardless of the number, let your agent or agents be people who respect your wishes, have a good head on their shoulders, and have your best interests at heart.

Empowering Your Agent 

Without limitations, your agent has absolute control over your health care and can make decisions you wouldn’t approve of if you had the chance. It is important that you specify the kinds of medical decisions you want them to take while you’re incapacitated and in what circumstances their powers may be exercised.

For instance, if you do not want to be sent to a nursing home or hospice or prefer a specific healthcare facility, you can state this in your power of attorney. A skilled estate planning attorney can help draft this section of your power of attorney to clearly express your true intentions.

By the DC code, there are some health-related decisions that your agent can’t make on your behalf, such as decisions concerning abortion or sterilization. Your agent would need approval from a competent court before they can make such decisions on your behalf. If you’re considering giving your agent power to make such decisions, you may need to consult your DC estate planning lawyer to be sure that doing so would not invalidate the entire document.

Can You Revoke a Medical Power of Attorney?

The powers you grant your chosen agent under a DC medical power of attorney remain dormant until two licensed healthcare professionals certify your incapacity to make your healthcare decisions.

Until that happens and as long as you remain mentally capable, you can revoke your medical power of attorney at any time by:

  • Creating a new medical power.of attorney 

  • Notifying the agent orally or in writing about the revocation

  • Notifying your health care provider of the revocation, orally or in writing

Under the DC Code, a divorce or annulment may nullify a medical power of attorney if the person appointed as agent is your spouse. If you intend for your current spouse to act as your decision-maker even if you get divorced, you can ask your attorney for help bypassing this clause.

Got More Questions About the DC Medical Power of Attorney? Kevin C. Martin, Attorney at Law Can Help


At our law firm, we understand the difficulties when you’re forced to confront the reality of unavoidable ill health and possible mortality. We aim to make things easier as you try to take charge of your affairs and ensure you’re armed with a valid medical power of attorney that captures your intentions. Nothing is left can help you work through all these processes.

We also offer general estate planning services, and our caring special needs planning attorney can help if you need to make arrangements for your special needs child/ward when you’re no longer around.

Contact us immediately and give us a chance to help you find answers to your power of attorney and estate planning questions. We’d be glad to help.