Benefits of a health care proxy

Having a health care proxy in place is beneficial because it clarifies beliefs, describes wishes and appoints a single decisionmaker.

For many New York residents, the benefit of a health care proxy is largely misunderstood. Many people view this type of advance care directive as something that is only needed if a person is sick or old. According to the National Public Radio, approximately one third of adults across the country have completed some type of advance directive as part of their estate planning, but those over 65 years of age are more likely to have completed this legal document. Even young, seemingly healthy individuals can benefit from crafting a health care proxy.

Clarifies important beliefs

A health care proxy can help people clarify their beliefs and values as they relate to medical interventions. Faith may dictate what type of procedures and treatments a person wants during a medical emergency. The proxy gives people a place to express their important beliefs to ensure their end of life care falls in line with their values. Going over the role a person's faith plays in his or her decisions may help family members better understand the best options for him or her.

Makes wishes known

Not only does this type of directive help define a person's values, but it can also make his or her specific wishes known to both physicians and family members. The health care proxy provides a place for the individual to go over potential medical decisions, such as the following:

  • When to stop implementing life-sustaining treatments
  • What type of medicines to use to provide comfort
  • Whether feeding tubes should be used

When the wishes are written out, it makes it easier for family members to make tough decisions. It also helps a medical provider better understand the type of treatments that may be acceptable to the patient.

Appoints a decision maker

When someone gets in an accident that affects his or her brain, the relatives may end up having to make medical decisions. If the entire family has a say, physicians often have to wait for some type of consensus. A health care proxy, however, appoints a single decision maker, which can increase the chances of the individual's wishes being followed. Having a single decision maker can make the process easier on the family and on the medical staff. When crafting this legal document, the subject should talk with the appointee to make sure he or she will be able to follow the wishes described in the directive.

Not all New York residents have a health care proxy in place, but this type of legal directive can be beneficial for anyone over the age of 18. No matter the current health situation of an individual, it is often a good idea to work with a knowledgeable attorney when drafting a health care proxy.