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Refugee Health

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Guardianship

Guardian

A guardian is a person appointed by the Arizona Superior Court to make decisions for an incapacitated adult or a minor. The guardian can make personal decisions for the patient regarding health care as well as living arrangements, education, and social activities.

Any person interested in the incapacitated adult's or minor's welfare may petition the court to appoint a guardian by filling out the following forms. The process may take at least 2 months.

In order to appoint a guardian for an incapacitated adult, the incapacitated adult must be evaluated by a medical professional, interviewed by a court-appointed investigator, and represented by an attorney.

In order to appoint a guardian for a minor, the minor's parents must consent to the appointment of a guardian for their minor child. No medical evaluation or representation by an attorney is necessary.

Health Care (Medical) Power of Attorney, Mental Health Care Power of Attorney

A patient may name someone to serve as an "agent" under a power of attorney. The agent under power of attorney can make health care decisions (Health Care Power of Attorney) or mental health care decisions (Mental Health Care Power of Attorney) only when the patient is unable to do so.

When appointing an agent under power of attorney, the patient can specify which health care decisions the agent is authorized or not authorized to make. The Office of the Attorney General provides a power of attorney form, though there is no specific form that must be used.

  • Arizona Attorney General - Health Care Power of Attorney form
    The power of attorney form must:
    1. Name the person who will make health care decisions if the patient becomes unable to make or communicate his or her own decisions. An alternate person can be named in case the primary agent is unavailable.
    2. Be signed and dated by the patient.
    3. Be signed by an adult witness or notary who is not related, not in line to inherit any property, and not involved in providing health care to the patient. The witness or notary must confirm that the patient seems to be of sound mind and free from duress.
  • More information on power of attorney from the Office of the Secretary of State
Surrogate

If the patient does not have a court-appointed guardian or agent under a power of attorney, the health care provider will ask a surrogate to make decisions for the patient.

The health care provider will go down the following list (listed in descending order of priority) to find a surrogate who is available and willing to make health care decisions on behalf of the patient:

  1. The patient's spouse, unless legally separated
  2. An adult child of the patient, or a majority of the adult children
  3. A parent of the patient
  4. The patient's domestic partner if the patient is unmarried
  5. A brother or sister of the patient
  6. A close friend of the patient
  7. If none of the above can be located, the attending physician will make decisions after consulting with an ethics committee. If unavailable, the physician may make decisions after consulting with a second physician.

A patient can prevent a specific person from becoming his or her surrogate, by stating in writing that he or she does not want that specific person to make his or her health care decisions.

A surrogate cannot decide to withhold or withdraw artificial nutrition from the patient. Only a court-appointed guardian or agent under a power of attorney can decide to withhold or withdraw artificial nutrition from the patient.