Healthcare Proxy Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Healthcare Proxy, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Healthcare Proxy?

“A person who was appointed by another to make that person’s decisions if he/she become incapacitated by illness or injury. Typically, a living will names this person.

History and Meaning of Healthcare Proxy

A healthcare proxy is a legal document that designates a person, also known as a healthcare agent, the power to make medical decisions for an individual who is unable to make decisions on their own. This legal arrangement ensures that the individual's healthcare wishes are carried out according to their beliefs, values, and preferences if they are no longer able to communicate them effectively.

The healthcare proxy was introduced in the 1980s as a response to advances in medical technology, which made it possible to keep individuals alive indefinitely, even in a coma or persistent vegetative state. The healthcare proxy is a vital component of advance care planning, allowing individuals to make choices about their care in the future.

Examples of Healthcare Proxy

  1. An individual with a terminal illness creates a healthcare proxy designating their spouse as the healthcare agent. The agent is responsible for making medical decisions for the individual, such as what treatments to pursue, if the individual is unable to make decisions on their own.

  2. An elderly person designates their adult child as their healthcare agent. If the individual suffers from dementia and can no longer make decisions about their medical care, the designated agent will make decisions for them based on their predetermined wishes.

  3. A young adult creates a healthcare proxy naming a close friend as their healthcare agent. The agent is responsible for making medical decisions if the individual is incapacitated by injury or illness.

Legal Terms Similar to Healthcare Proxy

  1. Living Will: A legal document that outlines an individual's wishes about medical treatment if they are unable to communicate their desires.

  2. Durable Power of Attorney: A legal agreement that designates a person to make decisions on behalf of someone else, typically related to finances or healthcare.

  3. Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR): A legal order that instructs medical personnel not to perform CPR, defibrillation or other life-saving measures in the event of cardiac or respiratory arrest.