Merck Manual

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Some Legal Terms Related to Health Care

Some Legal Terms Related to Health Care

Legal capacity (competency): The right and ability to manage one’s own affairs (bestowed at age 18 in most states).

Legal incapacity (incompetency): The inability to manage one’s own affairs because of injury or disability, as determined by a legal proceeding.

Clinical incapacity to make health care decisions: The inability to understand the significant benefits, risks, and alternatives to proposed health care and to make and communicate a health care decision, as determined by a qualified doctor or other health care practitioner.

Living will Living Will Health care advance directives are legal documents that communicate a person’s wishes about health care decisions in the event the person becomes incapable of making health care decisions. There... read more : A document, sometimes called a medical directive, that expresses a person’s wishes regarding future medical interventions and end-of-life care when the person no longer has the capacity to make health care decisions.

Health care power of attorney Health Care Power of Attorney Health care advance directives are legal documents that communicate a person’s wishes about health care decisions in the event the person becomes incapable of making health care decisions. There... read more : A document that legally appoints someone else to make health care decisions on a person's behalf in the event the person no longer has the capacity to make health care decisions. The person appointed may be called a health care agent or proxy, health care representative, or other name depending on the state.