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Healthcare Proxy Defined

No one likes to imagine becoming incapacitated due to illness or injury. But if it should ever happen, who would make critical decisions for you?

Answering that question is the purpose of a healthcare proxy, also called a medical power of attorney. This important document enables you to appoint someone you trust to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself.

Why is a healthcare proxy so necessary?

Consider the case of Terri Schiavo, plunged into a coma following cardiac arrest. For nearly fifteen years, Mrs. Schiavo’s parents fought with her husband over whether to keep her on life support indefinitely or let her pass naturally. If only Mrs. Schiavo had signed a healthcare proxy beforehand, she could have determined who would make such life-and-death decisions for her. The Schiavo case focused public attention on the need for healthcare proxies.

Today, a healthcare proxy is considered an essential component of a robust estate plan. What if you become partially disabled and need assistance communicating with your caregivers? A healthcare proxy can help here, too. Without a proxy legally appointing your agent, the medical staff cannot, by law, disclose medical information.

Who can serve as your agent?

Just about any trusted person. Your spouse, children, a brother or sister, or even a close friend. It’s also wise to appoint a backup proxy, in case the primary agent is unable to perform this important duty.

Another document, called a living will, is a critically important complement to your healthcare proxy.

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