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What decisions will your health care proxy need to make?

As you create your estate plan, you will most likely be executing a health care power of attorney as part of it. You will need to carefully consider whom you want to make medical decisions for you should you end up incapacitated by an injury or illness that you may not survive.

You may have someone in mind, but before putting him or her into your power of attorney or even making your final choice, it may help you to understand the type of decisions your health care proxy could need to make on your behalf.

Some common decisions that require attention

If you do end up in a position where you cannot express your wishes regarding your health care needs, whomever you choose to do so in your stead will most likely face one or more of the following decisions:

  • Do you want every possible medical measure taken to save your life? If so, what does that mean in relation to your condition?
  • Do you have a "Do Not Resuscitate" order, also called a DNR? If so, make sure your agent has it in order to provide it to emergency medical personnel and hospital personnel, and that you keep it in a place where someone could easily find it if needed prior to your agent taking over.
  • If you don't have a DNR, do you want medical personnel to perform CPR or take other measures to resuscitate you?
  • If you stop breathing, do you want a ventilator?
  • Do you have a pacemaker? Would you want it turned off if doctors confirm there is nothing more to do and you are dying?
  • Would you want sedation if doctors can do nothing else for you and you are dying?
  • Would you want antibiotics or any other medications that will not affect your prognosis?
  • Do you want a feeding tube even if you will never regain consciousness?
  • Would you refuse treatment if you could speak for yourself?

The person you choose to make decisions for you would most likely ask you these types of questions and more if possible. When you discuss wanting to appoint a particular person in your health care power of attorney, you may want to be ready to answer these and other questions you may think of or the other person may ask.

You could even put your responses to these and other questions in writing in order to help guide the person you choose should the situation arise. Doing so could provide you, the other person and your family with at least some peace of mind that your wishes are known so they can be followed if the time comes.

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What decisions will your health care proxy need to make? | Center For Elder Law & Estate Planning