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Question Marc

What is a lasting power of attorney?

A lasting power of attorney is a legal document allowing someone with mental capacity, aged 18 or over, to appoint another to act on their behalf when they lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions. Documents can cover financial affairs, health and welfare, or both.

You may encounter a lasting power of attorney if one of your patients who lacks mental capacity has formally appointed someone known as the attorney to make decisions about health and welfare on their behalf.

The attorney can make decisions on a wide range of issues from washing and feeding to life-saving treatment and must be approached about any decision. He or she is expected to act in the patients best interests, and to consider their beliefs, values and any past statements when reaching a decision.

If a patient is able to make some decisions but

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A lasting power of attorney is a legal document allowing someone with mental capacity, aged 18 or over, to appoint another to act on their behalf when they lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions. Documents can cover financial affairs, health and welfare, or both.

You may encounter a lasting power of attorney if one of your patients who lacks mental capacity has formally appointed someone – known as the attorney – to make decisions about health and welfare on their behalf.

The attorney can make decisions on a wide range of issues – from washing and feeding to life-saving treatment – and must be approached about any decision. He or she is expected to act in the patient’s best interests, and to consider their beliefs, values and any past statements when reaching a decision.

If a patient is able to make some decisions but not others, the attorney is not allowed to override any decision made by the patient for which they have capacity. For example, if a patient has the mental capacity to make decisions about their daily routine but not about a proposed operation, the attorney is allowed to make a decision about the operation but not the daily routine. Similarly, if a patient who lacks capacity regains it, regaining consciousness for example, the attorney is no longer able to act on the patient’s behalf.

Specific forms must be completed and registered with the Office of the Public Guardian for a lasting power of attorney to be valid. The attorney should be able to provide you with a copy of these forms, and if you have any doubts about the validity of a lasting power of attorney, check with your legal department.

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