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  • Writer's pictureKathy L. McNair, Esq.

Why every one over 18 should have a Health Care Proxy?

A Health Care Proxy allows you to designate someone to make medical decisions for you in the event that you can no longer make decisions for yourself. Executing a Health Care Proxy allows you to decide who will make these critical decisions. Without a Health Care Proxy, your loved one's may have to go to court to obtain a guardianship if you become incapacitated. Guardianship can be costly, time consuming, and stressful. Guardianship also takes away your ability to decide who will be making life or death decisions for you.

A Health Care Proxy only goes into effect once a doctor confirms that you require medical attention but you cannot communicate your wishes or understand.

In Massachusetts, the Health Care Proxy does not provide specific instructions for your designated agent to follow. Therefore, you should have a conversation with the person that you choose to act as your Health Care Proxy about your general wishes for medical treatment if you were in a situation where your quality of life was significantly impaired.

The Terry Shaivo case, illustrates the importance of a Health Care Proxy. In this case, Terry was a young woman who suffered a stroke at the age of 26 that left her in a persistent vegetative state. She did not have a Health Care Proxy. Her parents wanted to keep her alive with the help of a feeding tube. Her husband wanted to remove the feeding tube. The decision went to the courts, and there was an ongoing legal battle that lasted seven years, before her feeding tube was removed. In the end, Terry lived in a vegetative state for almost fifteen years. This case is a good example to discuss with the person who you choose to act as your Health Care Proxy, to make sure that they know your wishes and would be willing to make sure they are honored, even if they differ from your own.

In Massachusetts, you can also choose to execute an Advanced Directive that provides more detailed instructions for you Health Care Agent to follow. However, this document is not binding. Therefore, it is important that you discuss your wishes directly with your Health Care Agent while you are still healthy. ,

If you have ever been admitted to the hospital, you have likely been asked to sign a Health Care Proxy. Hospitals want to obtain consent in advance from patients in case they become incapacitated and medical professionals need to administer medication, perform surgery, or otherwise treat the patient. However, the generic version used by most hospitals can fall short for many patients and may infringe upon their autonomy. Always be cautious when you sign a boilerplate document.

Everyone over 18 years old should have a Health Care Proxy. If you have a child going to college, this is a good time to get this done. Usually, a Health Care Proxy is a part of your overall estate plan, as at a minimum most adults should have a Will, Health Care Proxy, and Durable Power of Attorney.

Do you need a Health Care Proxy? Please take the next step and call our office at 617-489-5900 or schedule a brief free consultation or by clicking:

Senior Solutions, Attorneys at Law, is an Estate Planning and Elder Law firm, serving the Greater Boston, Massachusetts area, since 2001. We are ready to help you with Medicaid Planning, Estate Planning, Probate, Guardianship & Conservatorships, Special Needs Trusts, and Fiduciary Services.

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