When does a Health Care Directive operate?
When the Principal lacks “decision making capacity”--meaning the ability to understand the significant benefits, risks, and alternative to proposed health care and to make and communicate a health care decision. This determination is made by the Principal’s attending physician. Once the Principal is determined to lack “decision making capacity” the Health Care Directive is in effect and the Health Care Agent is the person responsible for making the Principal’s health care decisions.
If desired, the Principal can specifically request that the Health Care Agent be authorized to make health care decisions for the Principal even though the Principal retains “decision making capacity”.