A healthcare proxy is a term you might have heard of in relation to comprehensive estate planning. The term proxy refers to another person acting on your behalf. With regard to healthcare proxies, this person is equipped to express your individual wishes on your behalf if you are unable to do so. Depending on where you live and where you execute this document, this might also be referred to as a durable medical power of attorney or your appointment of a healthcare agent.
Of course, you know your personal healthcare wishes best, but if you were injured in an accident or otherwise unable to speak up for yourself, you need someone else to express your concerns.
Some people think that a healthcare proxy is only used if the patient in question is terminally ill. This is not the case. Your proxy is actually able to make decisions on your behalf any time that you are incapacitated and unable to communicate due to a temporary or permanent injury or illness.
There could be a natural fear that someone else is making decisions for you when you might be in a compromised state, but not enough of a serious medical condition to be totally unable to speak for yourself. A doctor might need to certify that you meet the grounds to be classified as incapacitated before your proxy is able to make decisions for you.
Remember that whoever you name in the role of proxy could potentially have access to your medical records depending on the permissions you allow. Make sure that the person you appoint knows about your personal religious beliefs, healthcare provider opinions and preferred institutions, medical treatment preferences, and personal feelings regarding illness and healthcare treatment.
Before you find yourself in a difficult situation with a loved one, make sure they’ve named someone as a healthcare proxy to speak for them. Assigning your own healthcare proxy is important, too!