What happens if you become incapacitated and are unable to make health care decisions? If you don’t have a health care proxy or guardian in place, state law chooses who can make those decisions. When faced with an emergency, doctors can take extraordinary measures to keep a patient alive. Once the emergency has passed, however, doctors and medical staff will look to someone, generally a family member, to make medical decisions on behalf of patients who are unable to express their own intent. If you are in a situation in which you are unable to make health care decisions for your self, say you are unconscious, intibated, or in a coma, and you have not specified who will be able to act on your behalf, then your doctors may not know what treatments decisions you would be willing to authorize. The list of people who can make medical decisions for you usually goes in a familiar order. It starts with your spouse and adult children. Parents, siblings, grandchildren, and close friends may also be expected to be authorized agents. In many circumstances, however, these may not be the people you want making these important decisions for you, and not having your wishes spelled out can cause distress and agony among your family members and confusion for your doctors. A Health Care Proxy, or sometimes called a Medical Directive or Advanced Medical Directive, is a form of Medical Power of Attorney whereby the power to make those treatment decisions is delegated to a person or persons selected by the patient in advance. By delivering a health care proxy, the express wishes of the patient can be followed without causing confusion for the caring medical professionals. The Health Care Proxy is an essential component of a good estate plan and recommended for anyone looking to insure that their health care wishes are honored when those wishes cannot be expressed verbally.
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