We all want to retain the ability to make our own decisions regarding our own medical care.  However, what if you are sick and cannot communicate your wishes regarding your medical treatment?  What would you do then? Would you want these decisions to be left up to a court of law? Would you want these decisions to be made by a complete stranger who does not know what your wishes, medical beliefs, or religious beliefs are? A simple and easy way to avoid these issues is by creating a Health Care Proxy.

          A “Health Care Proxy” is a document that you can create (as the “Principal”) that allows you to name another individual (a “Health Care Agent”) to make medical decisions for you. In the event that you are ever in need of medical care and cannot communicate with your medical professionals, your named Health Care Agent can communicate with these medical professionals on your behalf and make decisions concerning your medical care.  Your Health Care Agent is typically a loved one, such as a spouse, child or sibling, but can be anyone you trust. The Health Care Agent represents you, carries out your wishes and makes medical decisions for you that you would have made.

          In Massachusetts, any competent individual who is over the age of 18 has the right to create a Health Care Proxy. A Health Care Proxy must be in writing and must be signed by you, the Health Care Agent, and two adult witnesses. The named Health Care Agent cannot be named as one of the witnesses. The Principal may also designate one or more alternate Health Care Agents who can serve as your Agent in the event that the primary Agent dies, becomes sick or cannot serve as your Agent for any reason. 

          Your Health Care Agent can be given any specific powers that you determine is appropriate.  For example, the Health Care Agent can be given the power to:

  • select the type of operative procedure(s) you may need;
  • agree to or refuse a certain course of treatment;
  • agree to or refuse certain medications;
  • admit you to a skilled nursing facility; and/or
  • take you off or keep you on certain life sustaining devices, such as ventilation machines.

          All of the Health Care Agent’s decisions are based on what you, as the Principal, would have done had you been able to make your own decisions. Once you make your wishes known in the Health Care Proxy, your wishes must be followed even if they conflict with that the beliefs or wishes of the Health Care Agent. If you have any specific religious beliefs or wishes it is a good idea to address these wishes in your Health Care Proxy so you can make sure your religious or other beliefs are followed.

          If you would like to discuss your legal matter with one of our attorneys please contact this office and arrange for a free initial consultation. Our experienced attorneys can assist you with your legal needs.