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Preparing for future medical and end-of-life care can be an uncomfortable but necessary step in creating a comprehensive estate plan. An essential, but often overlooked consideration is the role that faith, belief, and morality play in this process. Legal documents like the Medical Power of Attorney (“MPOA”) and Directive to Physicians enable individuals to make informed healthcare decisions when they are unable to communicate their wishes themselves. However, these state-provided forms lack provisions pertaining to specific moral or religious belief systems. Given this, it is essential to discuss with your attorney how your deeply held religious and moral beliefs can be carried out in the midst of medical uncertainties and end-of-life scenarios.

Medical Power of Attorney (MPOA)

What is it?

A Medical Power of Attorney is a legal document that designates a trusted person, known as the agent, to make medical decisions on your behalf when you’re unable to do so. This can occur due to incapacitation, illness, or any condition that renders you incapable of communicating your preferences. The MPOA grants your chosen representative the authority to discuss treatment options, consent to medical procedures, and advocate for your healthcare needs. Furthermore, if you do not have an Advanced Directive (discussed below) your agent can make end-of-life decisions on your behalf as well.

Why is it important?

Not having an MPOA in place can lead to unnecessary complexities and conflicts among family members when important medical decisions need to be made. As such, establishing a clear MPOA is essential to ensure that your voice is heard and that your deeply held religious beliefs are respected, even when you cannot express them yourself.

How can I express my beliefs?

Often, individuals opt for an agent who shares their beliefs, a strategy that can prove effective. However, regardless of whom you choose, it remains crucial to engage in a dialogue with your representative regarding your beliefs and preferences. This dialogue serves as a guide for them to act on your behalf when the need arises. An alternative method to ensure your desires are upheld involves documenting your beliefs in writing. The MPOA form promulgated by Texas allows the principal (you) to provide specific instructions and limitations to your agent. This space offers an excellent opportunity to express your distinctive beliefs. One approach is to insert a straightforward statement that reflects your religious affiliation, for instance:

“Any decision to be made hereunder shall be made in accordance with the laws and customs of the ___________________ faith [insert name of religion].”

Ultimately, the best way to ensure your beliefs are incorporated into your MPOA is to discuss these matters with your attorney at the earliest stages of creating your estate plan.

 Directive to Physicians

What is it?

A Directive to Physicians (hereinafter “Directive”), sometimes referred to as a “Living Will”, is a legal document that outlines your preferences for medical treatments in certain situations. Specifically, the document is tailored to situations involving “irreversible” or “terminal” conditions. In simple terms, this means you can communicate your wishes when: (a) you are expected to pass away within six months; or (b) recovery to a meaningful quality of life is highly unlikely. Ultimately, your Directive serves as a guide to medical professionals on the type of care you wish to receive or avoid in these specific scenarios.

Why is it important?

Much like the MPOA, a Directive can offer clarity and help avoid conflict. It allows you to express your wishes regarding medical treatment when you can’t speak for yourself. Crucially, a Directive holds precedence over an MPOA, ensuring that you retain the ultimate decision-making authority—not your agent or any other individual—as you approach the end of life.

How can I express my beliefs?

While the MPOA designates a representative to speak on your behalf, the Directive serves as your voice, offering clear instructions based on your values and beliefs. As such, it is important to thoughtfully review the language provided on the standard Directive to Physician form and reflect on how your beliefs align with or diverge from its content.

For example, under Catholic doctrine, nutrition and hydration are generally considered ordinary means of preserving human life. As such, Catholic teaching holds that nutrition and hydration must be provided, even at the end of life, unless doing so would cause undue suffering or exacerbate an existing medical condition. A person wishing to draft a Directive in line with Catholic teaching would want to ensure language expressing this particular belief is included in the form.

The above is one example of many considerations a person with deeply held religious or moral beliefs should weigh when drafting a Directive. As mentioned, the standard form doesn’t encompass specific religious or moral belief systems and might even contradict some. As such, it is essential to discuss these matters with your attorney in the early stages of drafting your Directive. This guarantees that your voice and desires are clearly communicated when the time comes.


Preparing for potential medical uncertainties through legal documents like the Medical Power of Attorney and Directive to Physicians is not just a prudent step, but a responsible one. These documents offer you control over your medical care and allow you to make informed decisions well in advance, avoiding potential confusion and disputes during challenging times. By including your religious and moral considerations, you ensure that your beliefs are respected and upheld, even when you are unable to express them yourself.

At Sprouse Shrader Smith we understand the significance of these documents in safeguarding your health and personal values. Our Estate Planning Team can guide you through the process of creating comprehensive documents that ensure your future healthcare is managed according to your desires and beliefs.

Article by Kelsey Matchen
Sprouse Shrader Smith PLLC