A medical proxy, also known as a healthcare proxy, allows someone to appoint a trusted person to make healthcare decisions on their behalf if they're unable to do so. This protects medical decisions that align with the patient's values and desires.
Medical Proxies v HIPAA Authorization
Medical proxies and HIPAA authorizations are important in a patient's decision-making. A HIPAA authorization allows health providers to share information with specified individuals. A medical proxy focuses on decision-making authority in health matters.
How to choose your Proxy?
- Choose a person who you believe will respect your healthcare wishes.
- Your proxy should be able to communicate clearly with healthcare professionals.
- Confirm that the person is willing to take on this responsibility and will likely be available when needed.
- Choose someone who can make difficult decisions under pressure.
- Your proxy should understand your values and preferences regarding medical care.
- Ideally, select someone who lives near you or can travel quickly in an emergency.
- Check for conflict of interest: Avoid choosing a healthcare provider or someone who might have a conflict of interest.
- Have an open and honest conversation about your expectations and their role.
- Make sure they agree to be your medical proxy before you finalize your decision.
- Over time, reassess whether your chosen proxy still fits your needs best.
Can the proxy refuse?
A medical proxy, once designated, does not have the authority to appoint a different individual to take over their role. The power to change or appoint a medical proxy rests solely with the principal. This person was initially designated as the proxy. This is because the decision to choose a medical proxy is deeply personal and is predicated on a high level of trust and understanding between the principal and their chosen agent.
If the proxy cannot continue and no alternate is named, legal intervention may be necessary to appoint a new healthcare decision-maker.
See also: HIPAA, disability, and caregiver rights