A Health Care Proxy is the primary decision maker in the stead of incompetent patients facing life and death circumstances. They make tough choices concerning treatment options, insurance benefits and, of course, life support.
According to the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law & Aging, less than one-third of the adult population has a Living Will or other Advance Directive, so naming a Health Care Proxy (a.k.a. Health Care Power of Attorney) puts the principal (the eventual patient seeking your help) ahead of most.
But are you equal to the task?
If you identify with one or more of the following circumstances, you might want to respectfully decline the request if you're ever asked to serve as someone's Proxy.
The choices made by a Health Care Proxy are seldom casual and almost always of the essence. That means making prompt decisions that hold the utmost significance without dawdling or dithering. This duty demands generals, not grunts. Speaking of which…
Source: Flickr, Tambako The Jaguar
Acting in the interests of your principal may mean fighting often intractable medical staff and family members — each with their own respective interests in the situation. Navigating these waters requires a certain measure of political deftness, but mostly stiffness of backbone to uphold the principal's decisions.
Unwillingness To Pull The Plug
This is the hardest decision you may have to make as Health Care Proxy, so you could be excused for wrestling with it internally when called upon. But, when envisioning such a scenario, if that wrestling match doesn’t end 100 times out of 10 with the principal's decisions as the winner — even if it means authorizing the end of that person’s life — it’s not a decision with which you should be entrusted.
Hyper-Willingness To Pull The Plug
Regardless of your reasons — aversion to witnessing suffering, total disregard for human life, haste to get home in time for Game of Thrones — if you’ve got an itchy life-support finger, politely decline this job offer.
If you’re often out of town, be it for work or tax evasion purposes, you’re probably not a good candidate for the characteristically unexpected needs of an incompetent patient. Proximity to the principal is vital to being his/her health care representative, underscoring our next reason…
Depending on the medical choices of the patient, the responsibilities of Health Care Proxies can drag on for weeks, months or even years. So if you don’t live within driving range of the principal, it’s going to be nigh impossible or, at best, prohibitively expensive to fulfill your obligations.
Personal Objections To Certain Medical Treatments
Being a Health Care Proxy means being on board for any medical treatment that comports with the principal's decisions. So if you take religious, spiritual or intellectual exception to any of the applicable procedures or medicines stipulated within them, get past it or pass on the responsibility.
Differences With The Finance Power of Attorney
Often a principal will name a different Power of Attorney for finance than for health care. If you, as Health Care Proxy, don’t get along with your finance counterpart, it can mean added hardship if, for instance, he/she withholds the release of funds to pay for medical expenditures you’ve already authorized.