Without warning, serious illnesses or injuries may leave people in conditions where they cannot speak or make decisions for themselves. Under such circumstances, important decisions about their medical treatment and care may fall to their loved ones. To help avoid conflict and reduce the stress on their family members, as well as to give voice to their wishes and preferences, people may consider creating advance care directives such as naming health care proxies.
Before appointing a health care proxy, people may consider factors to help them choose the right person to make medical decisions on their behalf.
Do they meet the state requirements?
When choosing a health care proxy, people may check the state requirements to ensure the representatives they select qualify to serve as their agents. According to the Office of the Attorney General of New York, competent adults aged 18-years or older may serve as health care proxies for people with incapacitating conditions. Unless a relative or appointed before their admissions, people may not name administrators, employees or operators of the hospitals or nursing care facilities to act as their health care agents. People’s doctors, unless married or related to them, also cannot serve as health care proxies.
Will they make decisions based on the patients’ values?
People grant significant authority with and place substantial trust in those they appoint as health care proxies. According to MayoClinic.org, when choosing someone to make medical decisions on their behalf, people may consider picking a representative they may trust to carry out their wishes. For instance, a spouse may find it difficult to carry out a patient’s wish to not receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation. They may find it helpful to discuss their medical care and end-of-life preferences with those they name to serve as their health care representatives.
While healthy, many may underestimate the need for having advance directives such as a health care proxy in place. However, planning ahead may help ensure they have a voice, even if their conditions prevent them from making decisions or speaking for themselves.