Phillipsburg, NJ asked in Medical Malpractice and Elder Law for New Jersey

Q: Who legally is medical P.O.A. for my dying mother? No legal paperwork has been done. I'm oldest of 4 girls

Mother is now brain dead and end of life questions have arose. My 2nd sister is insisting she makes all choices, cause she lives closest. She has been telling doctors what to do next without speaking to any of us. Hospital will not even except my calls, cause 2nd sister has lied and said shes POA. I've xalled stating, shes not POA and No one will return my call from hospital .How is this happening? Is she right? My mom is on her death bed as we speak and I can't even go to hospital due to covid restrictions and I live far away. Myself and other sisters are willing to go and mutually decide to whether or not terminate life support. Again, 2nd sister saying we have zero legal rights. So terrified that she will do what she wants with talking to us. We are desperately in need of help.

1 Lawyer Answer
Richard Diamond
Richard Diamond
  • Short Hills, NJ
  • Licensed in New Jersey

A: I am terribly sorry to hear about your mother's condition and that you and your sister are fighting over how to handle your mother's current condition peacefully.

As to a power of attorney, I would be shocked (take a breath), if your sister was able to simply tell the hospital that she has a power of attorney to make decisions concerning end of life care, without the hospital having a physical copy of that document, signed by your mother. Is it possible that when your mother was brought to the hospital or during a prior hospital stay, she signed a POA in favor of your sister?

If your mother did not sign a POA in favor of your sister, the hospital is in a difficult position since it cannot simply take direction from your sister. It may be that your sister is telling the hospital what to do but without that formal paperwork, the hospital may be waiting to see if someone else comes forward to question her actions.

The simplest solution is to text your sister and ask her to take a picture of the poa signed by your mother and send it to you. If she doesn't do so, reach out to the legal department at the hospital (and follow up with an email) so that the hospital cannot claim that she never heard from any other family member as to your mother's wishes.

If the legal department does not get back to you, then I would contact the state agency overseeing hospitals and tell them that your sister has represented that she has a poa for your mother, but you do not believe that same is true and the hospital refuses to speak with you and your siblings to help determine your mother's true wishes and you believe that the hospital does not have a poa in its system, signed by you authorizing your sister to make decisions for your mothers care.

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