Myths and Misconceptions about Health Care Proxies

Despite the fact that everyone needs a health care proxy, there is considerable confusion about what it is and what it does. Here’s what you need to know.

A Health Care Proxy is a Legal Document, not a Person.
In Massachusetts, a health care proxy is a legal document that allows you to name a person you trust to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make such decisions or communicate your wishes. The person named in a health care proxy is called your agent.

Signing a Health Care Proxy Does Not Mean You Lose the Right to Make Your Own Health Care Decisions.
The agent named in your health care proxy cannot make decisions on your behalf until your doctor declares, in writing, that you are unable to make such decisions on your own. If you recover from the condition that rendered you incapable of making decisions or expressing your wishes, you will once again have the authority to make your own decisions. Your agent makes decisions for you only when and for as long as you cannot do so yourself.

Yes, You Can Make Changes to Your Health Care Proxy After You Sign It.
If you change your mind about who you want to serve as your agent, you can create a new health care proxy.

In short, a health care proxy helps ensure your wishes regarding your medical care will be carried out in an emergency or if you eventually develop dementia. Of course, you must clearly convey your wishes to your agent in advance. You should also have detailed discussions with your doctor as well as your loved ones. A great tool to help organize your thoughts on this topic is The Conversation Project.

As always, I’m here to help any and every way I can. Until next time, take care… 

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