As difficult as it is to think about, the day may come when you are unable to make your own medical decisions. A health care proxy advocates for you.
The unexpected impact of COVID-19 has led people of all ages to reflect on how they can better prepare for an uncertain future.
Choosing a person who can represent your wishes to medical professionals is an important component of a comprehensive estate plan. It is never too soon to legally designate someone to coordinate your care with doctors, nurses, and other health professionals.
Choosing the Right Person as Your Proxy
The person you choose to be your health care proxy must be someone that you trust to fight for your best interests. Sit down with the person you would like to designate and ensure they are comfortable serving in this capacity. Have conversations regularly with them so they understand how you stand on a variety of issues and concerns.
Your health care proxy should be able to do the following:
- Make quick decisions about your medical care based on available information
- Be comfortable asking doctors questions about your diagnosis and prognosis
- Advocate strongly for your wishes with medical professionals, family members, and friends
- Be able to make difficult decisions if necessary
While many people choose a family member, anyone can be your health care proxy if they are at least 18 years old. A spouse, neighbor, friend, sibling, pastor, or another trusted person can be designated. Patients who live in a health care facility cannot choose an employee of that facility unless that person is a family member. You also cannot choose a current member of your health care team.
A Health Care Proxy Has Access to Private Information
Your health care proxy is tasked with making medical decisions when you are incapacitated or otherwise unable to do so. They will decide about tests, procedures, surgeries, and bloodwork for you. Your proxy will have full access to medical records normally covered by HIPAA privacy laws.
Should you ever be diagnosed with a serious illness, you should consider inviting your proxy to attend an upcoming doctor’s appointment. This way they can ask the doctor questions about treatment and hear your questions, concerns, fear, and feelings.
Regularly Review Your Proxy Choice
Your choice of health care proxy should be reviewed on a regular basis. Relationships change, people move away, and other shifts can require a new health care proxy to be named.
Examine your health care proxy at specific points in your life:
- At the beginning of each decade (when you turn 30, 40, 50, etc.)
- When you get married
- The birth or adoption of a child
- Before embarking on a major trip
- If you get divorced or widowed
- If you are diagnosed with a serious illness
Provide your proxy with the contact information of your primary care doctor. Your primary care doctor should also have the name and contact details of your proxy. Tell the people in your life who you have named as your health care proxy.
Naming an Advocate for Your Medical Wishes
Our attorneys at Percy Law Group, PC, have significant estate planning experience in estate planning tools that fit a wide variety of needs and goals. The health care proxy can be part of a larger estate plan that includes a will, trusts, powers of attorney, and guardianships.
Schedule an initial consultation to learn more about health care proxies and the estate planning process. We offer video and telephone conferencing. We also can meet at your home or in hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities. Contact us online or call (508) 206-9900 to get started.
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