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District of Columbia Durable Power of Attorney Laws

A durable power of attorney is a legal process that allows an individual to appoint another individual as his or her health care agent. This agent, the person named as having power of attorney, is entrusted to make important health care and end-of-life decisions if the patient lacks capacity to provide informed consent.

For example, someone who has severe brain damage and is being kept alive through a feeding tube is unable to communicate with hospital staff. The individual named in a durable power of attorney can make decisions on behalf of the patient, such as allowing for the natural process of death.

Washington, D.C. Durable Power of Attorney Law at a Glance

The durable power of attorney provisions in the District of Columbia's code are very similar to those of other states. But D.C. law provides more guidance for writing the legal document itself, offering sample templates for how a durable power of attorney should be written.

The following chart provides general information about Washington, D.C.'s durable power of attorney law. See The Power of Attorney, Living Will, and Your Health Care for a general summary.

Code Section 21-2201 Health Care Decisions
Specific Powers, Life-Prolonging Acts To grant, refuse, withdraw consent to the provision of any health-care service, treatment, or procedure if principal is incapable of making or communicating decisions himself
Legal Requirements for Durable Power of Attorney (1) Competent adult; (2) in writing; (3) must include language clearly communicating the intent for attorney-in-fact to have authority to make health-care decisions on behalf of the principal with language that power is effectuated upon principal's incapacity; (4) dated; (5) signed; (6) in presence of 2 adult witnesses; sample form §21-2207
Revocation of Durable Power of Attorney Revocable at any time by notifying health care provider or attorney-in-fact orally or in writing. Divorce automatically revokes designation of former spouse
Validity from State-to-State -
If Physician Unwilling to Follow Durable Power of Attorney -
Immunity for Attending Physician -
Misc.

A durable power of attorney for health care shall include language which clearly communicates that the principal intends the attorney in fact to have the authority to make health-care decisions on behalf of the principal and shall include language identical or substantially similar to the following:

  1. "This power of attorney shall not be affected by the subsequent incapacity of the principal."; or
  2. "This power of attorney becomes effective upon the incapacity of the principal."

Note: State laws may change at any time, usually through the enactment of new legislation or decisions of higher courts. You may want to contact a District of Columbia health care attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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