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 desires.
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 proxy.