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What is a Health Care Proxy?

A health care proxy is a document that allows you to appoint one or multiple individuals to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are no longer able to do so. You may give your health care proxy authority to make decisions for you in all medical situations if you cannot speak for yourself. Your health care proxy can make decisions and ensure you are treated according to your wishes, values and beliefs.

The Importance of Having a Health Care Proxy

Every adult, age 18 or older, should have a health care proxy. A situation may arise at any time where an individual is temporarily unable to speak for themselves.

It is important to appoint a proxy you trust who will be assertive and honor your wishes. Make sure your proxy is aware of your:

  • Personal attitudes toward health, illness, death, and dying
  • Medical treatment preferences, such as feelings about palliative (comfort) care, life-sustaining care (like artificial hydration and nutrition), and treatments you may need in the event you are unconscious
  • Religious beliefs
  • Feelings about health care providers, caregivers, and health care institutions

Choosing a Health Care Proxy

When you’re selecting a health care proxy, keep these things in mind:

  • Select someone who is willing and able to make decisions about your health
  • Some people are not natural decision makers, so that’s something to consider
  • Think about family dynamics, and who could make an effective decision
  • Let the person know that they are listed in your health care proxy
  • Give the person named in your health care proxy as much information as you can about your medical wishes