A health care proxy is a type of advance directive, also known as a living will. It is a legal document prepared in advance to ensure that your caregivers understand your wishes about your care. A health care proxy names the person you have chosen to express your health care wishes and empowers that person with medical power of attorney. This person (or ‘proxy’) is recognized under Massachusetts law as the person who can speak for you concerning health care decisions if your doctor determines that you are no longer able to make or communicate health care decisions. This person is often a family member or close friend. Ideally, it is someone who knows your personal wishes, values and beliefs. It’s someone you can trust to make the same health care decisions you would make if you could.

Choosing this person before he or she is needed can help you feel confident that you will always be treated according to your own wishes. On your behalf, he or she can explain to your doctor why you may or may not want certain treatment. Your health care team will still determine what treatment options are medically appropriate in your case, but they will consult with your proxy—as they would with you—regarding your values and the goals of care.

Act now to preserve your voice

HouseWorks strongly supports your basic right as a patient to express your personal health care wishes and actively take part in decisions related to your health care. However, accidents or severe illnesses may occur that can prevent you from participating in decisions about your care or expressing your wishes. HouseWorks encourages people who are perfectly healthy as well as people who are sick to prepare a health care proxy. Many serious health problems arise unexpectedly, so it is advisable to have a health care proxy ready at all times.

The implementation of a health care proxy and the decisions made around such a document are quite complex and require much thought. It is important to note that the rules surrounding health care proxies can vary from state to state. As always, you will be well served by discussing the matter with your family doctor, your attorney, or both. 

For more information and to obtain a downloadable copy of a Massachusetts Health Care Proxy Form, Click here to visit the website of the Hospice and Palliative Care Federation of Massachusetts.