Why is a health care proxy useful?

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As you do your estate planning, you need to consider your health care needs as you grow older. Things can change more quickly than you may realize, and you need to be prepared.

One thing you may want to use, for instance, is a health care proxy. Typically, you are the only person allowed to make major decisions about your own medical treatment. These decisions could include what type of surgery to get, if you want to be resuscitated and if you want to go on life support.

A health care proxy simply allows you to give someone else the power to make those choices. They are your legal proxy, and their word is as good as yours.

Generally, this does not go into effect right away. It could be used in the future, in a situation where you can’t make your own choices because you are incapacitated. You’re not giving up any rights otherwise.

For instance, you could suffer from a stroke at work. You end up in the hospital, unconscious. The doctors get you stabilized, but they do not know exactly what types of treatment you approve of. They can’t ask you, so the proxy steps in and makes critical decisions that he or she feels are in line with your wishes. If you recover and can communicate your wishes again, the power shifts back to you.

A proxy is useful because it means you do not have to write down every specific treatment you want or do not want. That’s hard to do because it’s tough to predict what may happen. By choosing someone you trust, you know they can adapt to the situation. Make sure you know what legal steps you’ll need to take to set up the health care proxy.

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