What is a health care proxy?

A health care proxy is a document that you sign naming someone to make your personal and medical decisions for you if you are no longer able to do so yourself.  Your doctors and other medical providers will look to this person, called your “agent,” to make your medical decisions.  Unlike the durable power of attorney, which takes effect upon signing, the health care proxy will only be used (“invoked”) if your doctor determines that you are no longer able to make or communicate your own medical decisions.  Your health care agent could literally make life and death decisions for you; therefore, it is very important that you speak with the person you have named about your wishes concerning health care, including end of life decisions.  It may be an uncomfortable conversation but it will save a lot of uncertainty and heartache later.