A bona fide health care proxy (health care agent) is a person whom you can count on and trust to direct your desired medical care if you are ever in a state in which you cannot speak or make decisions for yourself. A genuine proxy should possess attributes to ensure that your best interests are at heart. That person must be legitimate, qualified, responsible and trustworthy.
In order to be legitimate the person must be appointed and legal. A document known as a medical power of attorney (health care power of attorney) establishes both. Some legal criteria as to who can be a proxy vary from state to state. In some states the appointed person cannot be any healthcare professional or residential caregiver actively involved in your care. States also differ in allowing someone under the age of 18 to be the health care agent. In order for the health care power of attorney (health care proxy form) to be legally binding you must sign it.
The qualifications of a proxy hinge to a large degree upon that person’s familiarity with your wishes should you reach the end of life. The degree to which that person is qualified in this regard depends on two variables. The first is whether or not you have specifically outlined in a living will certain treatments you would like to have withheld or withdrawn if you reach the end of life. The second is whether or not you have restricted that person from making certain decisions by outlining them in the medical power of attorney.
A medical power of attorney goes into effect, even if you are only temporarily unable to make treatment decisions, such as while under anesthesia during surgery. Therefore, your health care proxy should also be qualified with respect to knowing your beliefs and values which might have some bearing on the type of care you receive during a time of temporary mental incapacitation. One example might be a desire not to receive blood transfusion for religious reasons.
The person you appoint to direct your healthcare should also be willing to be responsible. There is a difference between being in control and being in control and responsible. The person accepting control with responsibility is a bona fide health care proxy. The person wanting control without responsibility can act or appear tough, but might not have the appointee’s best interest at heart. It may be somewhat crude, but there is some truth to the old saying – when the going gets tough the tough get going. It is important that your health care proxy be available in a time of need.
Finally, the person you appoint to make treatment decisions for you if you are not able to should be someone you can trust, not only to carry out your wishes, but also to protect the privacy of your medical information. Make sure that person has integrity in the management of their own affairs and in their dealings with others. Also make sure that person is loyal and does not have any overt or subtle conflicts of interest.