The Health Care Proxy is a creative tool used by individuals establishing their “life plan.” This important legal document eliminates confusion and misunderstandings regarding medical decisions and keeps the patient’s choices the top priority, critical when communication becomes impossible.
Competent and caring Worcester Elder Law Attorney Paula Smith advises her elderly clients and their families of the benefits of executing a Health Care Proxy. Rather than viewing this document as a sign of dependence, Paula Smith explains to clients that a Health Care Proxy shows extraordinary foresight and good sense. It also avoids the need for extreme legal measures like a guardianship.
The Health Care Proxy and the Health Care Agent
The Health Care Proxy is a legally binding document that can be executed without involving the court, making it a powerful, timely, and effective solution for families who find themselves with difficult medical decisions to make involving loved ones.
The Health Care Proxy names a trusted person as Health Care Agent. The Health Care Agent is the person who will implement any and all health care wishes and decisions should the elderly person become unable to make them on their own.
To appoint a Health Care Agent in Massachusetts, the person naming the agent must be:
- Over 18 years old
- Of “sound mind”
- Under no undue influence or constraint
To be appointed a Health Care Agent in Massachusetts, the agent must be:
- Trusted by the individual appointing them
- Willing to carry out the patient’s choices for treatment
Health Care Proxies and Health Care Agents can be changed or cancelled at any time, as long as the patient is able to make sound decisions.
Beyond the Health Care Proxy
- The Advanced Care Directive, or Living Will
A document which includes instructions for medical treatment and end-of-life care is called an Advanced Care Directive, or Living Will. It’s important to note that although this document lists the patient’s preferences, it is not legally binding in Massachusetts and is useful more as a guide than a legally enforceable treatment plan.
Like a Health Care Proxy, an Advanced Care directive can be changed at any time, as long as the individual making the change is able to make sound decisions.