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Every family member needs to be aware of the need to address end-of-life and healthcare decisions within the family. Healthcare decisions do not merely relate to old age, because many issues can arise for those who are legal adults and typically able to make their own decisions. Accidents and health problems occur that require decisions to be made that people may not be able to make for themselves, so it is important that power of attorney be addressed in Maryland and everywhere else.

It is important to appoint someone as the person who makes the decisions in case of an emergency. Within some families the spouse is the most natural choice, but that is not necessarily the case. It may be that the spouse is unable or unwilling to perform the task. If that is the case, then power of attorney may be better given to another family member, friend or impartial person.

A general medical statement may be enough for some people, but others have very specific preferences. Some do not want to be resuscitated while others do. Some not want a feeding tube while others would leave it to the discretion of the person given the power of attorney to use the whole of the circumstances to make a decision.

In addition to addressing power of attorney issues in Maryland and nationwide, it is often a good idea to bring up the issue of a will at the same time. These issues are often intermingled and coming up with an overall plan to address emergency medical situations can be very calming and beneficial to the family. There can be tremendous advantages to speaking with someone who knows more about the potential ramifications of any choices. Every family should at least consider taking steps to make sure they are taken care of before something happens, so that if something does they are prepared.

Source: The Huffington Post, "The New Year's Talk Every Family Needs to Have," Richard C. Senelick, M.D., Dec. 30, 2012

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