Can a Medical Proxy Make Medical Decisions on My Behalf?


People appoint health care proxies or medical proxies so that someone they trust can make medical decisions for them when they are unable to do so themselves. While anyone can appoint a proxy, those who have been diagnosed with a terminal disease, degenerative disease, or those who are elderly, can benefit the most from appointing a health care proxy. 

What is a Medical/ Health Care Proxy?

When you designate a person as your health care proxy, you give them the power to make medical decisions for you if you can no longer make your own health care decisions. When you decide to give this responsibility to someone and they agree to it, then they will have the medical power of attorney when it comes to your medical care. 

The power of attorney for health care goes into effect when you no longer have the capacity to make your own medical decisions or cite your medical preferences. If you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness or will be temporarily indisposed (because you are scheduled for surgery and will be administered anesthesia),  then you will need  a health care proxy. 

How Do I Choose a Health Care Proxy?

You may choose anyone to be your health care proxy – they could be your spouse, family member, close friend, loved one, or even a third party such as a lawyer or a social worker,  as long as they are over the age of 18, and are someone you can trust to make your medical decisions for you. Since they will be making decisions on your behalf, they can be referred to as your health care agent. 

While any adult can be your health care agent, some state laws forbid certain individuals involved in your medical care from becoming your health care proxy. The following people cannot be your health care agent:

  • The physician who is treating you.

  • Your health care provider.

  • Employees of your health care provider or physician. But  if the employee is your relative, then they can become your proxy.

  • If you live in a nursing home – the residential health care provider or their employee. If the employee is your relative, then they can act as your health care agent. 

In case you do not have a living will and you become unable to communicate your health care wishes, then your health care proxy will make the decisions for you. You must choose someone who knows what your wishes are when it comes to medical treatments, and who is willing to act in your best interests. 

Once you have chosen your health care proxy, you can go ahead and establish that they will have the medical power of attorney. To do so, you must take the following steps:

  1. Fill out the health care proxy forms – You can choose from several health care proxy/medical power of attorney forms that are available online. 

  2. Have the form notarized – Depending on your state laws, to make the health care proxy form official, you may need to get it notarized. Some states, including New York, may even require two witnesses – who can attest that you signed the forms out of your own free will, and you were of sound mind when you signed the forms. 

  3. Make several copies of the form, and give them to the necessary personnel – The health care proxy forms will be needed by your physician, health care provider, your lawyer, close friends, and family members. Your hospital, clinic, and nursing home may also need a copy of the form. 

Durable Power of Attorney vs Medical Power of Attorney

The power of attorney document lets you appoint a person as your agent who will have the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf if you are incapable of making them yourself. When you grant someone the medical power of attorney, they become your health care proxy and will make your health care related decisions for you. 

A financial or durable power of attorney document will allow your agent to make financial decisions on your behalf if you can no longer make them. Unless your medical and durable power of attorney are the same person, they cannot make health care decisions for you. Decisions about paying medical bills and health insurance may fall under their duties though. If your durable power of attorney needs to settle your medical bills, they may sell your health insurance for cash. To understand how cash settlements for insurance work,  reach out to Uplife. 

Can a Medical Proxy Make Medical Decisions on My Behalf?

If you have certain health care directives or a living will in place, then you can let your health care provider know the details regarding your treatment preferences. The directive can cover your wishes regarding resuscitation (DNR), end-of-life care, life support, use of ventilators, dialysis, or the provision/refusal of any life-prolong or life-saving treatment. If you have a health care proxy, then they can see to it that your medical care decisions are carried out in accordance with your directives.

When you appoint a health care proxy, you give them the authority  to make the following medical decisions for you:

  • The physicians or health care professionals who will treat you.

  • The health care facilities where you will receive medical treatment.

  • If you will have surgery – and when

  • The drugs and medical treatments that are be best for you.

  • Whether they should choose palliative care or life-prolonging treatments.

  • How to treat a degenerative disease or brain damage. 

  •  If you are in a coma, whether to keep you on life support or disconnect it, 

Key Information about Health Care Proxies

Whether you are struggling with a terminal illness, a degenerative illness,  or will temporarily be unable to communicate your medical treatment preferences – you will need a health care proxy who you can trust to make your medical decisions on your behalf. The best candidate for a proxy is someone who:

  • Is familiar with your thoughts about illness, health, and dying.

  • Knows your medical treatment preferences, such as end-of-life care, palliative care, life-sustaining treatments such as artificial hydration, artificial nutrition, and feeding tubes, and any other treatments that you may need.

  • Knows and respects your religious beliefs.

  • Knows how you feel about caregivers, health care providers, and medical institutions.

You may include all the pertinent information regarding your medical care in an advance directive or a living will that your health care proxy can refer to while making medical decisions for you. Usually, living wills and health care proxies work in conjunction. Many of the states combine them both into one advance medical directive document.

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Q: Is it possible to change your health care proxy?

A: Yes, you may change your health care proxy at any time as long as you are conscious and are of sound mind. You will need to create a new health care proxy document when you change your proxy.

Q: Can I have more than one health care proxy?

A: Yes, health care proxy documents let you name a second person who can be your backup proxy if the person appointed is unable to fulfill their duties. 

Q: Do I need a lawyer if I want to appoint a health care proxy?

A: No, you do not need a lawyer to appoint a health care proxy. You can get the forms online and then have them notarized. If you wish to speak to a lawyer before you appoint a proxy, then you can do so. 

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