The Importance of a Health Care Proxy Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

With the current COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of a health care proxy is higher than ever before. We’ve learned many things during this crisis, but one thing that is obvious is that medical emergencies can happen to anyone at any time. Accordingly, it’s advisable to make your wishes and preferences known while also appointing someone you trust to make critical health care decisions for you when you are unable to do so.

If you don’t have a proxy or if it’s been several years since you appointed a proxy, the Coronavirus situation provides you with a timely inducement to create or update this document. An experienced and skilled estate planning attorney in New York like Kyle Steller can draw up this document for you.

What Is Health Care Proxy?

Health care proxies are instruments in which you name someone you trust to act as your proxy to communicate your wishes and make decisions for health care on your behalf. You also may hear this document referred to as the appointment of a health care agent or a durable medical power of attorney.

It is not necessary for you to be terminally ill for your proxy to make medical decisions for you. Instead, the proxy comes into effect any time that you are incapacitated or otherwise unable to express your wishes for care. Doctors typically are required to verify that you genuinely are incapacitated before your proxy is permitted to make decisions for you.

Appointing a proxy doesn’t mean that this individual has access to all of your information. If you wish your proxy to have access to everything, that is perfectly acceptable. However, you also can place restrictions with regard to what your proxy is permitted to see or do in relation to your care.

Choosing a Proxy

Most people decide on a proxy only after careful consideration. It’s important that an individual who will be assertive and committed to carrying out your wishes is chosen. Before agreeing to be your proxy, it’s wise to make sure that your chosen agent is aware of:

  • Your personal attitudes and opinions with regard to illness and dying
  • Your preferences for medical treatment including life-sustaining care, palliative care and the treatments you may require while unconscious
  • Your feelings and preferences with regard to medical institutions, doctors and caregivers
  • Your religious beliefs

Many of these preferences and opinions can be capture in a document that is called a living will. This instrument frequently is combined with a proxy document, or they may be two separate instruments. Either way, the living will can be used by your proxy as a guide to making decisions for health care on your behalf.

Appointing an Alternate Proxy

Most lawyers recommend that clients select at least one alternate proxy who is empowered to act should the first-choice proxy be unavailable. Exercise the same caution when selecting an alternate proxy as you do with your primary proxy. For instance, you’ll want to establish that your alternate proxy fully understands your wishes and is willing to comply with them.

What About a Health Directive?

In addition to appointing a proxy and having a living will drawn up, some people also create a health directive. This document provides you with a place to express your preferences for medical treatment should you ever be involved in an extreme medical situation that prevents you from communicating your wishes.

These legal documents make your preferences clear even when you cannot articulate them in the moment. Having a health directive in place ensures that your family knows what your preferences are so that they can abide by your wishes. Moreover, all of these legal instruments save your loved ones from carrying the burden of making agonizing decisions at a highly stressful moment.

Just as importantly, having one or all of these documents minimizes the chances that your loved ones will become embroiled in painful disagreements with regard to your care.

Ask a Lawyer About Appointing a Health Care Proxy

Contact the Law Offices of Kyle A. Steller if you are interested in appointing a proxy who can act on your behalf in the event of a serious illness resulting from Coronavirus or any other disease.

When it comes to appointing a health care proxy New York residents are encouraged to work with an experienced attorney who understands the legal requirements of these instruments so that they will be binding and enforceable.

Do you already have a proxy, living will or health directive? If you do, and it’s been several years since the documents were created, then it is worthwhile to have them reviewed and possibly updated by knowledgeable legal counsel. Not only may your circumstances and preferences have changed but also your choice of proxy may be different.

Contact Kyle A. Steller to learn about your options.

Consult with an Elder Law Attorney

Fill our form to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Elder Law Attorney. If you need guidance with wills, trusts, medicaid planning, asset protection or any other service Kyle Steller provides. Kyle serves families and individuals in Ulster County, Dutchess County and throughout the Hudson Valley of New York. Schedule your consultation using the form here, or call Kyle at 845-489-8712