RCPA - Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association


Guardianship, Power of Attorney, and Act 169 of 2006
April 11, 2007

A new PCPA report offering overviews of guardianship, power of attorney, and medical decision making through Act 169 of 2006 is now available. Mental health and mental retardation providers have numerous issues related to these topics. The report offers assistance and guidance for interpretation and clarification.

A guardian is a court-appointed person who makes decisions on the individual’s behalf regarding finances, physical, health, and safety issues. The court only removes those rights from the person that they are incapable of managing. When the court appoints a guarding, the rights that may be removed from the individual are listed in the petition. Guardianship may be a necessary option for some individuals, but it should not be seen as a way to take away a person’s rights and involvement in choices and decisions. Many times limited guardianship may be the better option. Senate Bill 576 has been introduced in the current session of the Pennsylvania legislature, to address the rights of persons with mental retardation.

Power of Attorney is an authorization to act on someone else’s behalf in a legal or business matter. There are special or limited powers of attorney to cover only one specific act. General power of attorney provides a wider scope for the designee to act on the individual’s behalf. Powers of attorney are often used in lieu of guardianship.

Medical or mental health decision making guidance is available through a variety of policies, directives, and law. Mental health advance directives allow an individual to make known preferences regarding mental health treatment in the event that the person is incapacitated by his/her mental illness. Act 194 of 2004 authorized the implementation of this directive.

The Office of Developmental Programs provides information through the Mental Retardation bulletin Substitute Decision Making for Medical Treatment. The existing bulletin is being revised to include information regarding Act 169 of 2006 providing guidance on health care powers of attorney for care-dependent individuals.

Act 169 of 2006 amends Titles 19 and 20 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes providing for the offense of neglect of care-dependent persons, living wills, and health care powers of attorney.

Questions may be directed to Linda Drummond, policy specialist. PCPA thanks Tsoules, Sweeney, Martin, & Orr, LLC, for reviewing this report.

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