Health Care Proxy
What is a Health Care Proxy?
The Massachusetts health care proxy is a legal document, which provides for an individual's right to determine the course of his medical care in the event of some future incapacity. By utilizing a proper health care proxy, an individual may appoint another person to serve as his agent to make health care decisions for him if he becomes incapable of making those decisions on his own. The individual who appoints the agent is called the "principal."
When does the agent have the power to begin making medical choices for the principal?
The agent's authority to make health care decisions under the existing health care proxy law is activated upon a determination by the principal's physician that the principal has sustained loss of his or her capacity to make such health care decisions. In other words, the health care agent cannot act under the proxy until such determination by the principal’s physician has been made. Consequently, the appointed agent will make decisions about the principal's health care only when the principal is, for some reason, unable to make the needed decision. For example, if the principal is temporarily unconscious or has some other condition whereby he is disabled and unable to communicate his health care decisions, then the agent can make health care decisions for the principal.
However, the agent cannot act until the principal's doctor determines in writing, that the principal lacks the ability to make health care decisions. It is important to remember if the principal gives his agent full authority to act, the agent can consent to or refuse any medical treatment, including treatment that could keep the principal alive.
Can you change your Massachusetts Health Care Proxy?
Absolutely. Moreover, periodic reviews are important to ensure that the documents you have signed are still in accord with your wishes and in compliance with current law. The principal can revoke the health care proxy in various ways, including but not limited to:
- Signing a new health care proxy;
- Legally separating from or divorcing his spouse if that spouse is named in the proxy as the principal's agent;
- Notifying his agent, doctor, or other health care provider, orally or in writing, that he wants to revoke the health care proxy; or
- Doing anything else that clearly
shows that he wants to revoke the proxy, for example,
tearing up or destroying the health care proxy, crossing it out,
telling other people, etc.
Contact Elder Law Attorney Tobin to discuss how your personal health care wishes will be followed with a legally binding health care proxy.