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Estate Planning FAQ

What is a Health Care Proxy?

A health care proxy, also known as a health care agent or health care power of attorney, is the person you select to make decisions about medical treatment on your behalf if you become unable to make these decisions.

When choosing your proxy, the most important consideration you can make is whether you can trust this person to act in your best interests at all times. More specifically, can you trust this person to make the decision you would have made when it comes to deciding whether to continue or cease medical treatment.

When you designate a health care proxy, it is important that you discuss in detail with your proxy the types of treatment you would want, the types of treatment you would not want, the types of scenarios in which you would want your life preserved and the types of scenarios in which you would not want medical intervention used.

You also may want to create a living will at the same time you choose your health care proxy. A living will can help guide the proxy in making decisions on your behalf and serve as another means to make your wishes known to your family and physicians. In some states, you will execute both of these documents at the same time in a health care directive. In other states, however, you will need to execute two separate documents.

You will have the authority to determine which powers your health care proxy will have – if there are a limited range of decisions you want your proxy to be able to make or if you want your proxy to be able to make all medical decisions for you. Generally, the type of powers a health care proxy has includes:

  • Viewing your medical history
  • Reviewing your medical charts
  • Speaking with your doctors
  • Making decisions regarding course of treatment
  • Requesting specialists
  • Requesting second opinions
  • Authorizing your transfer to other facilities, including nursing homes and rehabilitative care centers

You should consider selecting an alternative health care proxy in case your first choice is unavailable or unable to serve as your proxy. If you do not have an alternate and your first choice cannot act on your behalf, the court will select a guardian or custodian (depending on your jurisdiction) to oversee your affairs for you.

It is difficult to imagine a time in your life where you may be unable to make decisions for yourself, especially where it concerns decisions regarding your medical treatment. With a health care proxy, at the very least you have control over who will make these decisions for you.

For assistance drafting a health care proxy document, contact a knowledgeable estate planning attorney in your area.

Copyright © 2008 FindLaw, a Thomson Reuters business

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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