A health care proxy is a legal document that allows you to name an individual to make medical decisions on your behalf. In order to do this, you must be mentally competent to do so. In other words, you must be able to understand the situation and the alternatives, as well as your own medical condition. You can obtain advance directive forms from your healthcare provider, a lawyer or an advocacy organization. The form will differ slightly from state to state, but there are generally several sections that you must complete and sign. Generally, you will need two witnesses that are 18 years of age or older to be able to act as your witness. Depending on your state, you may need to have the document notarized.
A Health Care Proxy Cannot Override The Patient
When you execute a health care proxy, you are granting your agent the authority to make decisions regarding all aspects of your medical treatment. This includes decisions about life-sustaining procedures and whether or not you want to receive certain treatments. Your agent is required to follow your oral and written instructions as well as your moral and religious beliefs, if you share those with them.
You should choose someone who will be comfortable making these difficult decisions for you and who will be able to carry out your wishes regardless of their own personal beliefs, love for you or the feelings of others around them. Ideally, this person will be able to stand up to medical practitioners in case they do not follow your directions. You should also choose a backup agent in case your first choice cannot act on your behalf.
In addition to a health care proxy, you should consider putting your wishes into writing with a living will. A living will outlines your end-of-life wishes, including specific details of what types of medical treatment you want to receive and how you want your end-of-life care to be carried out. In some states, a living will can override your health care proxy if you change your mind and want to do something different at a later date.
It is important to remember that a health care proxy only makes medical decisions for you, not financial ones. If you wish to grant power of attorney for finances, you should speak with a lawyer about creating a durable power of attorney. Generally, a financial power of attorney does not become effective until you are incapacitated and does not supersede your health care proxy. You can also change your health care proxy at any time, but you must have the mental capacity to do so. Changing your proxy will require that you fill out a new durable power of attorney for health care and notify the people you have previously informed about it. Generally, it is best to keep your health care proxy documents in a safe place with your other important paperwork. You should give a copy to your agent and any family members or close friends that you want to be aware of it.