Health Care Proxy
A healthcare proxy is similar to a power of attorney – in some
states, the two are one and the same – and is a legal document meant
to disclose the wishes of the individual in the event of certain
health-related circumstances. It is not required that everyone write
a health care proxy, but is recommended if you have specific
There are two ways by which a health care proxy can work.
The first involves a detailed description of exactly how the
individual wants to be treated in certain circumstances. For
example, the writer of the health care proxy could request that he
or she not be given any form of life support when rendered to a
vegetative state. The health care proxy could include requests for
only one or two circumstances, or could be so detailed as to give
instructions for all conceivable situations.
The second type of health care proxy is more like a simple power of
attorney. In this case, the writer of the health care proxy gives
one person the decisioning power in the event that he or she is
unable to make those decisions. There won’t be any requests about
specific circumstances except to say that the person named in the
health care proxy should be given full decisioning power. In this
case, you can name one primary individual and an alternate should
the first be unable to make those decisions.
The laws concerning health care proxies are different in every
state. Some do not allow certain clauses in a health care proxy,
while others leave those decisions up to the individual. Before
writing your health care proxy, consult with an attorney about the
laws in your state so that you are as informed as possible before
making your decisions.
Your health care proxy can be changed, altered or destroyed at any
point while you are still alive, but be aware that if you are ever
incapacitated, that document will speak for itself. Make sure that
you think every decision through before putting pen to paper.
Once you have written your health care proxy, it will need to be
signed in front of a notary as well as two witnesses. Your witnesses
will then need to sign it as well, and the document must be
notarized. Make sure that there are no typos or mistakes in the
document before having it legalized, and have an attorney read it if
you are concerned about legalities.
Remember that, should you change your mind, you can destroy the
document, which invalidates its contents. You should also know that
if you don’t have a health care proxy, your closest living relatives
will be asked to make the decisions themselves. Be sure to include
any treatments that you don’t want to be administered, such as
resuscitation, blood transfusions, or any type of life-sustaining
device. If you do not want to be put on life support if you are
rendered incapacitated, make sure it says so in your health care