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What is a Healthcare Proxy? Do I Need One?

February 11, 2013

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What is a Healthcare Proxy? Do I Need One?

A health care proxy is a legal document that appoints an agent to make health care decisions in the event that the subject/signer of the document is incapable, physically or mentally, of making decisions. Another term which means more or less the same thing is a “springing” healthcare power of attorney.

As long as the subject is able to make health care decisions the document is of no legal importance. If the subject or patient can’t make decision the agent appointed in the health care proxy is able to legally make decisions regarding the patients health.

The famous case that illustrates the need for a healthcare proxy is the Terri Schiavo case. Schiavo was in a coma for over 10 years. Her doctors gave her no chance of recovery. Her husband wanted to remove her feeding tube, but her parents objected. The court battles dominated the news for over a year.

In a healthcare proxy you can describe specific instances and how you like them to be handled. Or, you can give the person of your designation general authority to make decisions. In any event, you can take a little more control of the situation than you could without a healthcare proxy.

All the states have different requirements for a healthcare proxy. Here is a cool map that lets you know each state’s requirements: http://www.lawserver.com/maps/health-care-powers-of-attorney-witness-and-notary-requirments. I’d say that it isn’t necessary to use a lawyer, but with something that’s this important it is worthwhile to consult a professional just to make sure you get it right.

A 1994 Graduate of Columbia Law School, Avrum Aaron is the COO of Legal Outsourcing Partners, LLC. Contact him at avmrum@lop-llc.com.

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