All You Need To Know About Naming A Health Care Proxy

A health care power of attorney (also known as medical power of attorney, health care agent, or health care proxy) is someone who will make health care decisions on your behalf if you are no longer be able to make your own decisions. Your health care power of attorney will also advocate for the care and treatment you want, even if you cannot advocate for yourself.

Reasons for naming a health care power of attorney

If you become incapacitated and cannot speak for yourself, you'll want someone who knows you and your wishes to advocate on your behalf. This person is your health care power of attorney. By naming a health care power of attorney, you can potentially avoid disagreements between family members about your care, as there will be one person who knows your wishes and can legally speak for you. In addition, naming a health care power of attorney can help you feel confident that even if you aren't able to speak for yourself, someone you know and trust will speak for you, and help you get the medical care and treatments that you want.

Decisions a health care power of attorney may make

Your health care power of attorney has the right to make the following decisions on your behalf: 

  • Choices about medical care, including medical tests, medicine, or surgery
  • The right to request or decline life-support treatments
  • Choices about pain management, including authorization or refusal of medication or procedures
  • Admission to an assisted living facility, hospital, hospice, or nursing home
  • Choices about where to seek medical treatment, including the right to move you to another facility, hospital, or state
  • The right to see and approve release of your medical records
  • The option to take legal action on your behalf in order to advocate for your health care rights and wishes
  • The right to apply for Medicare, Medicaid, or other programs or insurance benefits on your behalf

Duties of a health care power of attorney

The duties of a health care power of attorney often depend upon the health care situation and the needs of the patient. In general, your health care power of attorney is responsible for following your wishes in your living will and advocating for the type of care and treatments you would have wanted or not wanted.

While you may not be able to anticipate every situation that might arise, it’s a good idea to have an open and frank conversation with the person you’re choosing as a health care proxy to make sure that he or she has a general understanding of your wishes, how you’d like to be treated, and they types of care you would like to receive.

How to create a health care power of attorney

Health care power of attorney forms vary from state to state, so in order to legally name a health care power of attorney you'll need to print out your state's forms from our State-by-State Advance Health Care Directive Forms tool. Be aware that you must name your health care power of attorney yourself; that is, no one can name a health care proxy on behalf of another person. In addition, a person who names a health care power of attorney must be of sound mind in order for the documents to be legally binding.

For advice on how to choose a health care power of attorney, see our article How to Choose a Health Care Power of Attorney.

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