A Health Care Proxy is a simple legal document that allows you (the patient) to name someone you know to be your Health Care Agent. Your Health Care Agent’s authority to make health care decisions begins only after a determination is made that you lack the capacity to make or communicate your health care decisions. For example, if you are temporarily unconscious, in a coma, or have some other condition so that you cannot make or communicate health care decisions. This determination must be made in writing by your attending physician. You must be notified, it at all possible, of this determination. No decision of your Agent can go into effect if you object.
Health Care Proxies generally provide no guidance about what medical treatments are desired and, instead, simply designate an all-purpose decision maker (your Health Care Agent), to assess the medical situation as it arises and, in consultation with the treating physician, to make whatever medical-treatment decisions are required. Health Care Proxies fill an important void in medical decision-making when a patient cannot make such decisions. Sometimes a patient's religious beliefs affects the medical decisions they would make for themselves.
To be sure, death and dying are tough circumstances to contemplate in the best of situations, and the prospect of facing these issues without the ability to communicate or otherwise direct one’s care makes this context even more unsettling. It is, however, possible for the patient to ask for modifications to the 'general' language of a Health Care Proxy to provide guidance to ensure that decisions being made on their behalf comply with religious requirements that the patient would have undoubtedly followed if they could make those decisions themselves.
Once you execute your Health Care Proxy, keep the original for yourself in a safe place. Then distribute copies to your primary care doctor, your Agent and any alternative Agent identified in the Proxy. This way if there is an emergency, there will be no delay in your Agent’s authority being recognized.
You may cancel (revoke) your Health Care Proxy at any time simply by informing your Agent or your health care provider that you want to do so. However, it is always to put this in writing so there is proof that your named Health Care Agent no longer has the authority. You can also cancel your existing Health Care Proxy by executing a new Proxy.
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