Though it is a legal document, a health care proxy cannot handle every medical situation. Here are a few key points to consider before you designate a proxy.
Some caregivers could override your document — Most states permit a doctor or health care facility to reject any advance directive for reasons of conscience. In these cases, the doctor or facility must tell you or your health care proxy about this when you are admitted to care and must offer to help transfer you to another party or facility that will comply with your wishes or the health care proxy.
The advance directive may not be followed by emergency medical services (EMS) — If EMS is summoned to treat you in case of a life-threatening situation, they are usually required to resuscitate and stabilize you until you reach the hospital, regardless of an existing advance directive.
Know state laws — Though all states accept health care proxies as legal, each varies considerably in what is required of these documents. Also, if a health care proxy is written to your state’s specification but you undergo medical treatment when visiting another state, the rules regulating health care proxies in the state in which treatment takes place will usually prevail. Also, if you don’t have a health care proxy, many states will appoint a person to make medical decisions on your behalf. Usually, this person is your closest relative, which may or may not coincide with your intentions.
Do not use a health care proxy unless you fully trust the person you have named — In the case that a health care proxy is not an appropriate choice, the ABA recommends that you use only a living will.
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