|Does Power of Attorney grant ability to make medical decisions?|
Power of Attorney
Member Question: If someone holds power of attorney for an elderly person, do they have the ability to make medical decisions, including euthanasia, for that person’s pet?
NYSVMS Legal Counsel: A few years ago, the New York State Legislature revised the form for Power of Attorney (POA) because they believed that people executing a Power of Attorney didn’t understand the authority they were delegating to another person, and they included new mandatory language on the POA form that requires the person giving a Power of Attorney to another individual to specifically state the types of decisions that the person holding the Power of Attorney is authorized to make on their behalf.
The new form is several pages long, and requires the person delivering the Power of Attorney to check off the different “powers” that their agent can execute on their behalf. The person holding the Power of Attorney who wants to authorize treatment or euthanasia of an animal owned by the person who gave them that Power of Attorney must have authority to act “with respect to ... (B) chattel and goods transactions [or] ... (N) all other matters” and the Power of Attorney may NOT contain a limitation preventing the agent from acting to authorize care and treatment of companion animals (limits on an agent’s authority are found in a section called Modifications).
A veterinarian faced with an individual who is not the owner and has not been designated by the owner as the agent for the purposes of authorizing consent to treatment, but claiming Power of Attorney for the owner, should ask to see the document granting the Power of Attorney (this request is not unusual) and review it to be sure that the person holding the Power of Attorney is authorized to act as agent of the owner for this purpose.
A sample form for granting Power of Attorney, for the purpose of determining whether the Power of Attorney is a valid one, can be found online at the New York State Bar Association site. Click here.