Health Care Proxy

A health care proxy is a power of attorney that allows an agent to make health care decisions in the event that the primary individual is incapable of executing such decisions. Even when this document is drafted, the agent cannot make a health care decision as long as the primary individual has the mental ability to do so. Health care proxies are by no means mandatory; rather they allow the patient's wishes to be followed even when he/she is incapable of communicating them.

Anyone above 18 can be the primary individual's agent. The agent must be of sound mind and judgment. Health care providers recommend that the agent be someone close to and trusted by the primary individual.

Powers and Limitations of an Agent

The agent is empowered when a qualified physician determines that the primary individual is unable to make decisions regarding health care. The agent has the power to remove or sustain feeding tubes from the primary individual if these tubes are the only things that are keeping the primary individual alive. The agent's decision stems from knowledge of the patient's desire in this matter. If the primary individual made his or her wishes clear on the proxy form, then they must be followed despite any possible objections from the agent. Beyond this matter, if there are no limitations on the health care proxy form, the agent can make most other decisions in accordance with what the primary individual would have wanted. An agent will not be legally or financially liable for decisions made on behalf of the primary individual as long as they take into account the primary individual's wishes and beliefs.