Q: Dad has suffered a stroke and is currently in the hospital and unable to make or communicate his own medical decisions. Who is now in charge of his medical decisions? His wife, you, someone else? It depends…

A: Arizona law gives priority, in order, to the following individuals to make medical decisions for someone who lacks capacity to give informed consent:

  1. Legal Guardian appointed by the Court;
  2. Agent under valid Health Care Power of Attorney; and lastly
  3. Surrogate Decision Maker Statute* appoints the following, in order:  

    1. The patient’s spouse (unless legally separated)
    2. An adult child of the patient (if more than one adult child, then a majority of the adult children reasonably available)
    3. The patient’s parent
    4. If unmarried, then the patient’s domestic partner
    5. The patient’s sibling(s)
    6. A close friend of the patient

Assuming dad has no legal Guardian appointed by the Court, then the Agent under dad’s Health Care Power of Attorney would be his medical decision maker. Note, dad would have signed the Health Care Power of Attorney while legally competent prior to his stroke. If dad does not have a valid Health Care Power of Attorney in effect, his wife would be the Surrogate Decision Maker.  If not married, then medical decision making will be according to majority consent of his adult children (including you). *This prioritization may be in line with dad’s preferences, but sometimes the above priority of individuals can cause issues.  

If you have any questions about medical directives or if you would like to review or prepare your own, contact the attorneys at Bivens & Associates, PLLC. Call 480-922-1010 or email info@bivenslaw.com to schedule an appointment. We also represent and advocate for persons who are serving in the role of legal Guardian, Agent, or Surrogate Decision Maker.