What is a Power of Attorney for Health Care?
In addition to providing written health care instructions, you can also choose another person (e.g., a proxy, surrogate, or agent) to make health care decisions for you, if you become unable to make health care decisions for yourself. This part of an advance health care directive is often referred to as power of attorney for health care or a health care proxy. The responsibilities of a health care proxy range from speaking to your doctors, to accessing and consulting your full medical records, to hiring and firing your health care providers, to making decisions about your tests, procedures, and treatments. In most states, your health care proxy will be able to make any decision that you could make yourself regarding your treatment.
Even in states that allow for this very broad health care proxy, you still have the ability to limit your proxy’s power and can include specific instructions or preferences about your health care that your proxy must follow. Other states have restricted the power of a health care proxy. For example, in New York, an agent cannot make decisions about artificial nutrition or hydration unless the individual’s wishes about artificial hydration or nutrition are specifically shared in the document or the individual has stated that the agent is aware of his or her wishes.