Health Care Proxy – Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a Health Care Proxy?

It is a piece of paper that gives a person of your choosing permission to discuss and make health care decisions on your behalf.

2. So, is that different than a Power of Attorney?

Yes, a Power of Attorney is a piece of paper that gives a person of your choosing permission to discuss and make financial decisions and some legal decisions on your behalf.

3. What is the “person of my choosing” in Health Care Proxy called?

The person you give the power or authority to learn about or make medical decisions is called a “Health Care Agent” or just an “Agent.”

4. Wait, then what is the “person of my choosing” in a Power of Attorney called?

The person you give authority to make financial decisions on your behalf is called an “Attorney in Fact.”

5. Okay, I’ve got it. Now, what are some examples of the powers given to the Health Care Agent?

Sample powers are:

  • Permission to speak with a medical provider, hospital, pharmacist regarding confidential medical matters, the insurance company or other billing institutions.
  • Access to confidential medical records.
  • Permission to speak with insurance company regarding coverage and billing issues.
  • Consent to the admission or discharge from a Long Term Care Facility/Rehabilitation Center/Nursing Home.
  • Consent to the administration of antipsychotic medication.
  • To hire or fire health care providers without incurring any personal financial liability.
  • To make decisions in accordance with your wishes regarding end of life care such as artificial resuscitation efforts.

6. Mmmm, giving all those powers to someone else, even my daughter, makes me uncomfortable. I guess that means a Health Care Proxy is not right for me, right?

No, a good Health Care Proxy is one that is specifically tailored to your needs and only grants the powers that are in alignment with those needs. That means that it can be as broad or as narrow as you like. In some instances a person may not want their Agent to be able to make end of life decisions for them or to authorize their admittance to a nursing home. Perhaps, they just want their Agent to be kept in the loop regarding medical care and to not have to worry about HIPPA regulations preventing an open dialogue between family member and medical provider. So, it is important to realize that by drafting a Heath Care Proxy you controlling the access to your medical information in the event of an emergency as well as controlling what decisions a loved one can make about your medical treatment.

7. Well… my family knows my wishes regarding end of life care, so I don’t need a Health Care Proxy right?

No, just because your family knows what your wishes are and tells them to the medical provider, does not mean your wishes will be carried out. This is because, legally, the medical providers need to see those wishes in writing. Otherwise, there is a concern that the wishes were misunderstood, miscommunicated or worse misrepresented by the family member.

8. Right now, I am healthy. If I sign a Health Care Proxy, does that mean my Agent can make medical decisions for me or get my medical records any time she wants?

No, the Health Care Proxy only works after you become ill or unable to communicate your needs as determined by your doctor or other medical care provider.

9. Who should have a Heath Care Proxy?

Ideally, any person over the age of 18 should have a Heath Care Proxy. These documents are used in the event of illness or a sudden unforeseen accident that makes you unable to speak for yourself or otherwise communicate your wishes.

The Law Office of Frank V. Grimaldi, P.C. is a Cambridge, MA Family Law & Estate Planning Law Practice. We help you care for your family: Guardianships, Trusts, Wills, Probate, Disabilities Planning, & more.

Cambridge Health Care Proxy and Estate Planning services by the Law Office of Frank V. Grimaldi, P.C.