Under normal circumstances, if you become ill or injured, you will talk to your doctors, research your medical options, weigh the pros and cons of each option, and make an informed decision on your healthcare. But what if circumstances are not normal? If you become unconscious or otherwise unable to make your own health care decisions, then the existence of a Health Care Proxy becomes extremely important.
What is a Health Care Proxy?
A Health Care Proxy form allows you to appoint someone to make health care decisions on your behalf if you lose the ability to make these decisions yourself. The person you choose is your health care agent. By appointing a health care agent, you can make sure that health care providers follow your wishes, even if you are incapacitated.
There are two situations where a health care agent is most valuable:
The first situation is when you are temporarily incapacitated. A common example of this situation is when you having surgery, and the anesthesiologist puts you under general anesthesia. If the unexpected occurs, you will not be able to weigh in on any required medical decisions. If you appointed a health care agent, they can speak to your health care providers, and can make the decisions you would have made for yourself.
A second situation where having a health care agent is most valuable is if you became permanently unable to make health care decisions. This situation can occur if you became comatose, had an illness that left you unable to communicate, or suffered from senile dementia or Alzheimer's disease. If you do not have a health care proxy in either of these situations, your health care provider will give you care that they deem appropriate. However, if you no not have a health care proxy, you will not have a voice in your treatment. Your health care agent acts as your voice, and makes sure health care providers take your wishes, best interests and beliefs into account.
Usually your health care proxy does not go into effect as soon as you create it. Your health care proxy becomes effective at a time you specify in the document. Usually, the health care proxy only goes into effect when your doctor declares that you are incapacitated.
Choosing Your Health Care Agent
There are a number of factors to consider when deciding who to appoint in your health care proxy. Firstly, you need to choose someone that you trust. Your agent should also be a person who knows you well, a person who knows your medical preferences and will effectively advocate for your wishes will he followed. Usually this person is a spouse or a child, but the choice is up to you. You should also make sure to appoint one or more back-up agents in case the person you choose is unavailable when you become incapacitated.
You can also customize the power of your health care agent in a number of ways:
You can give your health care agent as much or as little power as you want.
You can limit the situations where your health care agent can make decisions for you.
You can also give instructions to your agent in your health care proxy document.
Additionally, you can use the same document to give your preferences on organ and/or tissue donation.
Who Should Have a Health Care Proxy?
A health care proxy is a document that everyone should get. For most people it always seems that it is too soon to get a health care proxy. They are not currently sick, and even if they are, they aren’t that sick. Like most planning documents, when the time comes that you actually need one, it’s already too late. That is why today is always the best time to get a health care proxy (or any of the other advance directives or estate planning documents). They are relatively easy documents to obtain, you can get a basic one from your state’s Department of Health, or you can have an attorney customize one for you. All that is required is for you to sign it in the presence of two witnesses. You can also revoke your health care proxy at any time simply by destroying the form.
If you have beliefs that differ from your family, obtaining a health care proxy can be especially important. Typically, state law will look to your closest family members to have them make medical decisions for you. Choosing a person who knows your wishes and who you trust to carry them out can avoid a situation where your family is fighting over what your best interests are. This could also be particularly important if you are an unmarried person in a committed relationship. If you want your partner to make decisions for you, you will most likely require a health care proxy.
A health care proxy is an incredibly important document. It is essential for anyone who wants to make sure that they have a voice in their healthcare. It is a document that you should have now, because when you need it, it’s already too late. As important as getting this document is to communicate about your wishes with your loved ones. These are difficult situations to think about, no one wants to think about getting sick or badly injured. But these situations can happen, and planning can avoid making a difficult situation even worse.