Thursday, August 18, 2011

Be Wary of Generic Health Care Proxy Forms

Hospitals often give patients a health care proxy form to sign on being admitted. While it might seem easy to sign a generic health care proxy form, having a document that is specifically tailored to your needs is very important.

A health care proxy allows you to appoint someone else to act as your agent for medical decisions. In general, a health care proxy takes effect only when you require medical treatment and a physician determines that you are unable to communicate your own wishes concerning what that treatment should be. Appointing someone to serve as your agent helps to ensure that your medical treatment instructions will be carried out exactly as you wish them to be.

While a health care proxy serves to appoint an agent to speak for you, you can also use it to give the agent guidance about your medical wishes. The following are some issues that can be addressed in a health care proxy:

* The name of the person authorized to act for you. It is important to appoint an alternate as well.
* If you are terminally ill, in a coma, or have brain damage with no hope of recovery, you can explain the kind of treatment you do NOT want. For example, do you want feeding tubes, resuscitation, dialysis, or blood transfusions?
* Whether or not you want to be kept alive by machines if you are in a persistent vegetative state.
* Under what circumstances would you want pain medication to be administered.
* Whether or not you want to donate your organs.
* Whether you want to be cremated or buried . . . where and how your remains should be disposed of.
* HIPAA designation so your physician can speak to your Agent(s).
* Guardianship and Conservatorship nominations to eliminate time in Probate Court.

Whatever choices you make, it is important that you take time to consider your health care wishes before putting your signature on a health care proxy. For this reason, signing a generic hospital form is not a good idea, because such a form may not take your individual wishes into account. Additionally, and very importantly, if you already have a health care proxy as a part of your estate plan, the generic form will revoke your more personal health care proxy that you gives you more protections.

A qualified attorney can help you create a document that addresses your situation.