What is a Healthcare Proxy?

What is a Healthcare Proxy – Overview

A healthcare proxy is a legal document that authorizes someone to make medical decisions on behalf of another person if they cannot make informed decisions for themselves.

The term ‘healthcare proxy’ refers to the legal document granting the authority and the individual appointed to make healthcare decisions. This is considered a type of advance health directive and can also be called a “healthcare power of attorney.”

Healthcare proxies become effective when a person cannot make or communicate healthcare decisions as determined by their healthcare provider.

The person designated as a proxy can make all medical-related decisions on the patient’s behalf. In essence, healthcare proxies could potentially make life-and-death decisions for the patient, so the proxy needs to know the patient’s healthcare wishes and religious beliefs.

Who Can Be a Healthcare Proxy

What Is a Healthcare Proxy

What Is a Healthcare Proxy – Who Can Be a Healthcare Proxy?

A person selected as a healthcare proxy is responsible for making critical medical decisions for the patient and can engage in the following activities:

  • Preventing/approving surgeries or treatments
  • Speaking with the doctors
  • Whether or not to use artificial nutrients and hydration
  • Whether or not to agree to organ donation
  • Choice of healthcare facility
  • Release of patient’s medical records

A patient can appoint anyone as their healthcare proxy, such as a friend or a family member, and can revoke their proxy’s authority at any time. Healthcare proxy documents often allow for the appointment of an alternate proxy in case the primary proxy is unable or unwilling to fulfill their duties.

Remember that the healthcare proxy you select can only make medical-related decisions on your behalf. A healthcare proxy is specifically authorized to make only healthcare decisions; financial decisions require a separate legal arrangement, such as a financial power of attorney. You must designate someone as your financial power of attorney to handle financial matters.

The laws governing healthcare proxies can vary greatly from state to state in the US. To draft such a document properly, consult a legal professional knowledgeable about your state’s laws.

What Is the Purpose of a Healthcare Proxy

The main purpose of a healthcare proxy is to be a trustworthy individual when you are incapacitated and cannot make sound decisions about your medical treatment. Choosing a healthcare proxy is a personal decision, and there are different reasons why patients may or may not choose to have one present.

For many people, a healthcare proxy offers comfort, knowing that someone trusted is responsible for making the right decisions on their behalf in case the patient cannot do so.

For terminally ill patients, selecting a healthcare proxy assures them that they will be cared for by someone who thinks with their best interest at heart. For people facing an uncertain future, this can prove to be extremely comforting, especially if they suffer from a life-threatening ailment.

How Does a Healthcare Proxy Work

A healthcare proxy allows patients to designate another person they trust to express their wishes when receiving medical treatment if they cannot speak for themselves. It is not necessary that only terminally ill patients or elderly patients can appoint a healthcare proxy.

A healthcare proxy becomes effective only when a medical professional determines that the patient cannot make healthcare decisions. In some states, formal certification from a healthcare provider is required to activate the healthcare proxy based on the patient’s incapacity to make healthcare decisions.

The patient uses the healthcare proxy document to grant proxy powers with specific permissions, but this power is restricted. The proxy should be fully aware of the following information about a patient:

  • The patient’s beliefs related to health, illness, and death
  • The patient’s medical treatment choices, such as comfort care and life-sustaining care
  • The patient’s religious beliefs
  • Aware of the responsibilities of the doctors, nurses, caregivers, and the hospital

It’s common for individuals to appoint a healthcare proxy in conjunction with creating a living will to provide comprehensive directives regarding their healthcare preferences. The proxy can use your living will to guide medical decisions on the patient’s behalf. As per state regulations, sometimes healthcare proxies are combined with a living will in an advanced directive document.


There is a stark difference between a healthcare proxy and a power of attorney. The former is responsible only for making medical treatment-related decisions on the patient’s behalf. On the other hand, the latter can make financial and personal decisions by the patient. Healthcare proxies provide severely ill patients with much-needed peace of mind and comfort, knowing that their medical treatment decisions are in the hands of a trustworthy person.

See Also

What is Healthcare FSA

IDA Grant Program

EIDL Grant

DHHS Grants

Is Canadian Healthcare Free?

Gradient Grant Community Outreach Support Program

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