A Health Care Proxy is a simple legal document that allows you to name anyone eighteen and older who you TRUST to be your Health Care Agent. This person will make health care decisions for you if, and only if, you are unable to make or communicate those decisions for yourself.
You may 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.
Here are five reasons why you should have a valid Health Care Proxy:
For some reason, there is a misconception that Health Care Proxies are for the elderly. This is not true. Every adult needs a health care proxy. Anybody can be in a situation where they’re temporarily unable to speak for themselves.
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.
Unfortunately if you do not have a health care proxy, your family may have an argument over who should make decisions and what those decisions should be. Sometimes families are unable to come to an agreement. When an agreement cannot be reached, the family will be forced to go to the Courts for guidance. The Court will most likely appoint either a third party or a member of your family to be your guardian. This guardian will ultimately have the authority to make all medical decisions on your behalf. The person the court picks to be your guardian may not be the person who you want to make your decisions.
Pick someone you trust. Pick someone you know will not be swayed by other people’s emotions and wishes but will instead stay true and honor YOUR desires and wishes. Pick a person that you have had an open and direct conversation with about your wishes and desires in various “worst-case” scenarios.
Your Health Care Agent will make decisions for you only after talking with your doctor or health care provider, and after fully considering all the options regarding diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of your illness or condition. It is important that you have an open and honest conversation with your Agent regarding your potential wishes and any moral or religious beliefs that may influence any medical decisions that may need to be made. If your Agent does not know what your wishes would be, your Agent would make decisions on what they believe would be in your best interest.
You can state restrictions on what should be done on your behalf. For example you can establish “Do Not Resuscitate” orders (also called DNR orders). DNR orders are written instructions stating you do not want CPR performed on you in the event of an emergency.
A person might want a DNR order for several reasons including they have a terminal illness, after they were resuscitated their quality of life would be greatly impacted and regardless of the efforts made their death is anticipated in the near future due to other medical conditions.
You might also have Religious and/or Moral beliefs that influence your medical decisions and how you live your life. You can state these beliefs and/or restrictions in your health care proxy to provide guidance to both the person making your health care decisions and the medical staff treating you.
Mostly importantly, you are providing yourself and your family members with peace of mind. If you become incapacitated, there is a plan already in place. Knowing this has been taken care of in advance is of great comfort to families.
Have questions or concerns about your Estate Plan? Contact us to discuss further:
E.M. Curran & Associates LLC