What Is A Health Care Proxy?

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Registered Nurse

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A health care proxy (HCP) is an advance directive document for you to designate someone you trust to make medical decisions for you in the event you can no longer speak for yourself.

It leaves no doubt about who has the authority to make treatment decisions if you cannot do so for yourself, and ensures that someone you trust is making the choices you would make to direct your clinical team.

Who needs a health care proxy form?

Everyone 18 and older should have an HCP form.

What is a health care agent?

This is the person you name to make treatment decisions for you in the event that a doctor determines you lack the capacity to make or communicate decisions.

You can become incapacitated due to an accident, other medical emergency, illness, or event that causes you to become unconscious or otherwise lost your decision-making ability.

Your agent's power to make treatment decisions ends if a physician determines you have regained your capacity.

Choosing the correct person to become your health care agent is an important part of advance care planning. Learn how to choose a good health care proxy (agent)

How do I name someone as my health care agent?

This process will vary state-by-state and the specifics of each state's Health Care Proxy form varies. Generally, they will include fields to the name of the primary agent, the agent's contact information, as well as an alternate agent in the event the primary agent is unavailable or unwilling to act.

Locate your state on our State Advance Directive resource page to learn more about how to make this form legal in your state.

What rights does a health care agent have on my behalf?

Though exact laws vary by state, agents are guaranteed certain rights, such as the right to be told about your illness, to know about the treatment options your doctor recommends along with their possible risks, and the right to consent to or deny any treatment. 

Naming someone to be your health care agent does not grant them any power over your financial assets, or any other aspect of your life beyond your medical care. 

What should I do once I make my health care proxy form legal?

Share copies

After completing a health care proxy form,  you should keep a copy for your own records and give copies to:

  • Your health care agent(s)
  • Your lawyer
  • Your doctor
  • Other individuals who may be involved in your health or personal care, such as close family or caretakers

If you have a Cake account, it's easy to share access to your Health Care Proxy document. Simply upload a copy of your document to the Documents section of your Cake account and ensure you have shared your profile with loved ones so they can access it in the event of an emergency. Don't have a Cake account? Create your free Cake end-of-life planning account today.

Talk to your health care agent 

Talk to your health care agent(s) about what is important to you when it comes to the kinds of medical care and treatments you want to receive. Make sure they understand you.

Is a health care proxy decision permanent?

No! You can change your mind at any time. Just complete a new health care proxy form and communicate these changes to your old health care agent, your new agent, your physicians, and your family members. 

Be sure to destroy old copies and ensure your new agent and your physicians receive copies of your new health care proxy document. 

Do I need a new health care proxy form if I move?

Your health care proxy form might be recognized across state lines if your form complies with that state’s laws. However, if you move permanently or have residences in different states you should fill out your new state’s forms to ensure you are compliant with their requirements. 

It is important to designate a health care agent to ensure someone that understands your values and preferences is making decisions on your behalf. 

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