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Understanding healthcare proxies

On Behalf of | Mar 16, 2023 | Elder Law | 0 comments

A healthcare proxy is an important part of one’s estate plan. Even younger individuals should have one, as it outlines instructions in the event the individual is unable to make medical decisions for him- or herself due to an accident or other event.

According to Columbia Health at Columbia University, a healthcare proxy is a document that names someone, known as the healthcare agent, to make medical treatment and other decisions on the individual’s behalf. Because of the importance of this document, it is worth taking the time to name the right person and have important conversations.

Name a healthcare agent

According to the New York State Department of Health, the agent you name can be anyone 18 years or older, such as a close friend or family member. You can choose your current medical provider, but then that individual can no longer be your doctor. A good agent is someone you can trust to follow your wishes and who is good at making decisions. To make it official, two adult witnesses must also sign the proxy.

Discuss your wishes with the agent

In the event you are in a physically or mentally incapacitated state, your agent will make decisions for you, such as:

  • Decide if you should receive medical treatment
  • Choose which medical treatments your healthcare team should provide
  • Determine which treatments you should not receive

Your agent can only make these decisions once your doctor determines you are unable to make them yourself, and the agent cannot make decisions regarding artificial hydration and nutrition unless you have told him or her what you would want.

For your agent to make medical decisions that align with your beliefs and morals, you should discuss your wants and wishes. To clarify them, you can also include them on the proxy form, and you can include specific instructions for your medical team.