A health care proxy (HCP) is a document legally establishing your decision to give a loved one (your “proxy”) the power to make medical decisions for you in the event that you cannot do so. This is an important decision. That person will become your medical advocate.
How do you decide who should be your medical proxy?
First and foremost, your proxy must be someone who is reliable and utterly dependable to keep your wants and needs above her or his own. She or he must be able to stay calm in an emergency, absorb a lot of information, and grapple with difficult decisions. It also should be someone who will take the time to listen to others in your circle of loved ones, who will explain what is going on, and who will be sensitive to their emotional needs. Medical knowledge is not necessary, but it is essential that she or he be able to speak to doctors and ask questions, and she or he must be comfortable in a hospital setting. It is better to name one person as your proxy – this is not a time when you want people to disagree. You should always name a successor proxy in case your first choice is not available.
A HCP can also be used to document your wishes regarding organ or tissue donation.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act release (HIPAA release) is a form that gives permission to your doctors and other treatment providers to share your medical information with others. It is specific. You can download the form online, or you can sign one at your doctor’s office. Remember to sign a HIPAA release with each of your treatment providers to allow your proxy to have access to your records.