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What is a health proxy?

There are certain laws in Massachusetts that allow each individual adult to make his or her own healthcare decisions. However, there may be circumstances in which people are unable to make or communicate what they would like. A health proxy can help in these situations.

According to Massachusetts Health Decisions, a health proxy is a legal document that names an agent to make medical decisions in the event someone is unable to do so. This proxy only allows the agent to make decisions once a doctor states in writing that the patient cannot make the necessary decisions. Until then, the patient is still fully in charge of healthcare choices. The patient can also cancel a health proxy or rename the agent at any time.

Since the agent may be making important healthcare-related decisions for the patient, the Massachusetts Medical Society says it is important the patient chooses someone trustworthy and who understands the wants of the patient. Before naming an agent, the patient should do some soul searching and ask certain questions. Some considerations may include:

  • Personal or religious beliefs related to healthcare and dying
  • People the patient would want the agent to talk to before making any decisions
  • Anyone the patient would not want involved in the decision-making process
  • Circumstances in which medical interventions are not worth it
  • If an agent should follow specific instructions or use his or her best judgment
  • Financial considerations

It can be hard to think of putting someone else in charge of making medical decisions on one's behalf, and that is why it is important to ask important questions and make sure the named agent is the right person for the task.

 

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