A Massachusetts Health Care Proxy is a legal document that allows you to name someone that you know and trust to make health care decisions for you in case you become unable to make or communicate those decisions. The person you name is often called your “Agent”. This is a very important document because it concerns not only the choices you make about your health care but also the relationships you have with your physician, loved ones, and other people who may become involved with your care.
Your Agent will only be able to make decisions about your health care when you are, for whatever reason, unable to make those decisions for yourself. This means that your Agent can make critical health care decisions that will affect you if you become temporarily unconscious, are in a coma, or have some other problem that is preventing you from making or communicating your health care decisions. Your Agent cannot make any decisions for you until your doctor determines, in writing, that you lack the ability to make those health care decisions for yourself. With your authority, your Agent can make any health care decision that you could, if you were able. If you give your Agent complete and full authority to act on your behalf, your Agent can consent to or refuse any medical treatment, including treatment that could keep you alive. This is why much thought and consideration should be given to who you choose as your Agent.
Your Agent will make decisions for you only after a discussion with your doctor or health care provider and after fully evaluating and analyzing all the options regarding your diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of your illness. In addition, your Agent has the legal right to obtain any and all information about your health care, including confidential medical information that may be necessary in order for your Agent to make informed health care decisions on your behalf.
Your Agent will make meaningful health care decisions according to your wishes or according to your Agent’s understanding of your wishes that may have permanent and irreversible consequences for you. Your Agent may also take into account your religious, spiritual, ethical, or moral beliefs. It may be advisable for you to speak with your doctor, clergy, or other trusted individuals before giving authorization to your Agent.
It is of critical importance that you talk with your Agent so that he or she knows what matters most to you. If your Agent does not know, or is unclear about what your wishes would be in any given situation, your Agent will make a decision based on what he or she believes would be best for you. Your Agent's decisions regarding your health care will have the same effect as if you made the decision if you were able. Your Agent’s decision will be honored over and above those of any other person, except for any limitations that you stated in your Massachusetts Health Care Proxy, or except for a court order from a judge that specifically overrides all or part of your Health Care Proxy.
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