Last week I offered an overview of the Health Care Proxy. Below are some essential facts that explain the importance of this document.
Before appointing someone as your health care agent, be sure that person understands your wishes. A good way to ensure this understanding is to sit down with your agent and go over your thoughts and illustrate the type of decisions you wish made. You might also want to write down your wishes and add them to the proxy, i.e., “I do not want to be resuscitated if my heart should stop” or “if it looks like my coma may be reversible, keep me on life support for at least 6 months.”
Select one person to make the final decision on your care to avoid conflict or confusion among family members and/or significant others. You may also appoint an alternate agent to take over if your first choice cannot make decisions. If you name all your children as agents and each has a different idea of what you want, there can be a great deal of confusion. But if you select one person to have the final decision, it will facilitate matters and cause less contention within your family.
After going to all the trouble of appointing an agent and insuring that s/he understands your wishes, make sure each of the major parties has a copy of your Health Care Proxy. That means give one to your doctor and other health care providers. Give copies to your agent, your spouse, and your close friends. Also be sure to carry a copy of your proxy in your wallet or purse at all times.
To see New York State’s health care proxy, log onto http://www.health.ny.gov/forms/doh-1430.pdf.
In other states, look up Health Care Proxy or Advanced Directives and the State, i.e. “Health Care Proxy + North Carolina”.