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What is a Healthcare Proxy?
A healthcare proxy is a legal document designating a person to act as your representative and make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you can no longer make those decisions.
Healthcare proxies only take effect when you require medical treatment, and the treating doctor determines that you cannot communicate your wishes regarding treatment. The person you designate as your proxy has the power to make all the decisions on your behalf.
Your healthcare proxy could potentially be making life-and-death decisions for you, so this person should be aware of your healthcare wishes and your religious beliefs.
The proxy you select as you can make many critical medical decisions on your behalf and engage in the following activities:
- Speaking with your doctors
- Preventing or approving treatment or surgeries
- Whether to use artificial hydration and nutrition
- Decisions about organ donation
- Choice of healthcare facility
- Release of medical records
You can appoint anyone as your healthcare proxy, like a family member or friend, and you can revoke the healthcare proxy at any time. Healthcare proxy documents also allow you to name a second person as the backup proxy if the primary proxy cannot fulfill their duties.
It is important to remember that your healthcare proxy can only make medical decisions on your behalf. Your healthcare proxy cannot make decisions regarding finances or paying bills. For this, you will have to appoint someone as your power of attorney .
Laws surrounding healthcare proxies vary by state, so it is important to speak to an experienced family lawyer familiar with state laws when choosing your health proxy and drafting the healthcare proxy document.
For more information about healthcare proxies, click here.
Purpose of a Healthcare Proxy
The primary purpose of a healthcare proxy is to ensure that in the event you are incapacitated, someone you trust is carrying out your wishes regarding medical treatment. Appointing a healthcare proxy is a personal decision, and people choose to have or not have a proxy for many different reasons.
For some people, a healthcare proxy provides them with the comfort of knowing that someone they trust will make good decisions on their behalf in the event they cannot make their own medical decisions.
If a person is terminally ill, they can rest easier knowing that they will be cared for by someone who has their best interests at heart. This can be comforting for those suffering from life-threatening illnesses and facing an uncertain future.
How Healthcare Proxies Work
A health care proxy, sometimes called a medical power of attorney, allows you to designate someone you trust to express your wishes and make healthcare decisions for you if you cannot speak for yourself.
You do not have to be terminally ill or even elderly to create a healthcare proxy. A proxy will only make treatment decisions on your behalf after being determined by a doctor that you are unable to communicate your wishes. Some states require that a doctor certifies that you are incapacitated for the proxy to take over decision-making.
Within the healthcare proxy document, you can grant your proxy specific permissions and place restrictions on their power. Your proxy should be fully aware of the following information about you:
- Your beliefs regarding health, illness, and death
- Your medical treatment preferences like life-sustaining care and comfort care
- Religious beliefs
- Feelings towards doctors, caregivers, and hospitals
It is common to have both a living will and a healthcare proxy. Your proxy can use the living will as a guide to making decisions on your behalf. Depending on your state, sometimes health care proxies will be combined with a living will into one advance directive document.
Click here to continue reading about how healthcare proxies work, specifically in New York State.
Healthcare Proxy vs. Power of Attorney
A healthcare proxy and a medical power of attorney are essentially the same thing, and these two titles are often used interchangeably. Both legal documents are medical advance directive documents that allow the person of your choosing to make medical decisions for you in the event you become incapacitated.
However, a general power of attorney differs from a healthcare proxy in that it allows the named individual to manage various areas of your life in the event you can no longer do so for yourself.
If you name someone your general power of attorney, that person can have the following capabilities:
- Conducting business and financial transactions
- Purchasing life insurance
- Settling claims
- Operating business interests.
Examples of When You May Need a Healthcare Proxy
Most people only consider healthcare proxies when they are elderly or have a terminal illness; however, anyone can and should have a healthcare proxy in place. You never know when a tragic accident could leave you incapacitated and needing medical care.
Some other situations that prompt the naming of a healthcare proxy include:
- Being diagnosed with a serious or terminal illness
- Reaching a certain age where illnesses may be more prevalent
- Drafting or editing your will and other advance directive documents
- After seeing your doctor for a routine visit
Check out this article for frequently asked questions about healthcare proxies.
Image via Pexels by Matthias
How To Get a Healthcare Proxy
It is a simple process to appoint a healthcare proxy, but each state will have its own laws governing the process. Most states, however, follow these basic steps:
Step 1: Fill out a healthcare proxy form that includes information like your name, date of birth, and the date the agreement is being made.
Step 2: Choose the person you wish to be appointed as your healthcare proxy.
Step 3: Add any stipulations or special requests like a DNR or denial of life-extending interventions. You can also limit your proxy’s authority or grant certain powers.
Step 4: Sign the healthcare proxy form and have it notarized. Some states will also require the signature of a witness.
Picking the person to name your healthcare proxy is a big decision, and you should keep the following things in mind when selecting someone for this very important role:
- Who is willing and able to make decisions about your health?
- Who will advocate for you in the event you are incapacitated?
- Always let the person know they are listed as your healthcare proxy
- Provide your proxy with as much information about your wants and needs as possible
People often select a close family member as their healthcare proxy, but you can choose anyone to act as your proxy.
After you have notified the person you chose to act as your healthcare proxy, you should have a long detailed discussion about your medical wishes.
Here are four questions that you should go over with your proxy:
- What care and treatment would you want if you were terminally ill?
- What would you want if you suffered brain damage or were in a coma and were not expected to recover?
- Do you want to be on life support like a respirator or a feeding tube?
- What would you want if you couldn’t live on your own without depending on other people?
These are only a few questions to get you started. You can find checklists online with decisions to discuss or speak to a family attorney or probate attorney about other choices that should be considered.
Get Help with a Healthcare Proxy
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Meet some of our Healthcare Proxy Lawyers
Attorney Greg Corbin is the founder and principal of Signal Law in Denver, Colorado. A top-rated trial and transactional lawyer with more than seven years of total legal experience, Mr. Corbin provides exceptional counsel and support to clients across the greater Denver metro and surrounding areas who have legal needs involving any of the following: business and corporate law; contracts and agreements; incorporations, partnerships and other entity formation and dissolution services; and ongoing business counsel for emerging and expanding commercial enterprises. Utilizing the latest in cost-saving technologies and advanced automation, Mr. Corbin has established his practice as a modern law firm ready for the future, and he strives to provide the highest level of representation to his clients and help them achieve their goals and the favorable outcomes they seek as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. He has gained a reputation for his innovative solutions as well as his transparent pricing structure and responsiveness when dealing with his clients. In recognition of his outstanding professionalism and service, Mr. Corbin has earned consistent top rankings and endorsements from his peers as being among the top lawyers in his region for business law and transactions. A 2008 graduate of Kansas State University, Mr. Corbin obtained his Juris Doctor from Boston University School of Law in 2013. The Massachusetts Bar Association admitted him to practice that same year, and the Colorado State Bar Association admitted him in 2015. Mr. Corbin is an active member of the Denver Bar Association and the Colorado State Bar Association, among his other professional affiliations, and he supports his local community through his involvement with Project Worthmore and Biking for Baseball, where he serves on the boards of directors.
The Law Office of David Watson, LLC provides comprehensive and individualized estate-planning services for all stages and phases of life. I listen to your goals and priorities and offer a range of estate-planning services, including trusts, wills, living wills, durable powers of attorney, and other plans to meet your goals. And for convenience and transparency, many estate-planning services are provided at a flat rate.
Experienced contracts and business attorney with years of experience advising entrepreneurs and small businesses. Currently act as general counsel to multiple companies with millions in annual revenue. My specialty is creative legal problem solving with solutions tailored to your business.
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Atilla Z. Baksay is a Colorado-based attorney practicing transactional and corporate law as well as securities regulation. Atilla represents clients in the negotiation and drafting of transactional (e.g. master service, purchase and sale, license, IP, and SaaS agreements) and corporate (e.g. restricted stock transfers, stock options plans, convertible notes/SAFE/SAFT agreements, bylaws/operating agreements, loan agreements, personal guarantees, and security agreements) contracts, in-house documents (e.g. employment policies, separation agreements, employment/independent contractor/consultant agreements, NDAs, brokerage relationship policies, and office policy memoranda), and digital policies (e.g. terms of service, privacy policies, CCPA notices, and GDPR notices). Atilla also reviews, and issues legal opinions concerning, the security status of digital currencies and assets. Following law school, Atilla practiced international trade law at the Executive Office of the President, Office of the United States Trade Representative, where his practice spanned economic sanctions enacted against goods originating in the People’s Republic of China valued at $500 billion. Afterwards, Atilla joined a Colorado law firm practicing civil litigation, where the majority of his practice comprised of construction defect suits. Today, Atilla's practice spans all corporate matters for clients in Colorado and the District of Columbia.
After graduating from The University of Chicago Law School in 2002, Clara spent eight years in private practice representing clients in complex commercial real estate, merger and acquisition, branding, and other transactional matters. Clara then worked as in-house counsel to a large financial services company, handling intellectual property, vendor contracts, technology, privacy, cybersecurity, licensing, marketing, and otherwise supporting general operations. She opened her own practice in September of 2017 and represents hedge funds, financial services companies, and technology companies in a range of transactional matters.
Founder and owner of Grant Phillips Law.. Practicing and licensed in NY, NJ & Fl with focus on small businesses across the country that are stuck in predatory commercial loans. The firm specializes in representing business owners with Merchant Cash Advances or Factoring Arrangments they can no longer afford. The firms clients include restaurants, truckers, contractors, for profit schools, doctors and corner supermarkets to name a few. GRANT PHILLIPS LAW, PLLC. is at the cutting edge of bringing affordable and expert legal representation on behalf of Merchants stuck with predatory loans or other financial instruments that drain the companies revenues. Grant Phillips Law will defend small businesses with Merchant Cash Advances they can no longer afford. Whether you have been sued, a UCC lien filed against your receivables or your bank account is levied or frozen, we have your back. See more at www.grantphillipslaw.com