Why You Need A Health Care Proxy
Posted by Richard on March 12, 2013
You may someday face a sudden health crisis due to an accident or serious illness that leaves you unable to make your own medical decisions. Fortunately, there is a means to address this potential future concern — it’s called a health care proxy.
A health care proxy allows you to legally designate someone — a proxy — to make medical decisions for you. Keep in mind that in some states you may even be able to combine a health care proxy and living will into a single document.
Hospitals and nursing homes are required to ask about the existence of any advance directive when you are admitted. In most states, a health care proxy does not take effect until you can no longer make medical decisions for yourself; until then, only you can legally consent to any treatment. In addition, you can always change or cancel the document as long as you are mentally alert. If you decide to make changes to any of these documents, be sure to do so in writing.
Know the Potential Drawbacks
Though it is a legal document, a health care proxy cannot handle every medical situation. Here are some key points to consider before you designate a proxy.
• Some caregivers could override your document. Most states permit a doctor or health care facility to reject any advance directive for reasons of conscience. In these cases, the doctor or facility must tell you or your health care proxy about this when you are admitted to care and must offer to help transfer you to another party or facility that will comply with your wishes or the health care proxy.
• The advance directive may not be followed by emergency medical services (EMS). If EMS is summoned to treat you in case of a life-threatening situation, they are usually required to resuscitate and stabilize you until you reach the hospital, regardless of an existing advance directive.
• Know state laws. Though all states accept health care proxies as legal, each varies considerably in what is required of these documents. Also, if a health care proxy is written to your state’s specification but you undergo medical treatment when visiting another state, the rules regulating health care proxies in the state in which treatment takes place will usually prevail.
• Do not use a health care proxy unless you fully trust the person you have named. If you don’t have a health care proxy, many states will appoint a person to make medical decisions on your behalf. Usually, this person is your closest relative, whose values may or may not coincide with your intentions.
The information in this communication is not intended to be legal advice and should not be treated as such. Each individual’s situation is different. You should contact your legal professional to discuss your personal situation.
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