Whether you call it a “health care proxy” or medical power of attorney, taking on the responsibility for someone else’s medical treatment can be a daunting task.
Do you have what it takes? Here are some of the questions you need to ask yourself:
1. Have you had a heart-to-heart with the other party?
You may be called upon to make literal life-or-death decisions for the other party. Whether that’s your best friend, a sibling or your parent, you can’t assume that you know the full extent of their beliefs about life-sustaining measures until you’ve talked them over.
Have you discussed such things as feeding tubes, breathing tubes, comfort care and resuscitation? If not, you need to have that discussion now — while there is time. You also need to make sure that you aren’t morally or religiously opposed to what the other party is asking from you.
2. Do you believe you have the time and energy to do the job?
You may only be called into service for a short while, during the other party’s final hospital trip — or you could be asked to make decisions about their medical care for years as they slowly fade in a nursing center. You may have to attend care planning meetings, fill out endless reams of paperwork and intercede when you think that something new needs to be done. Make sure that you’re up to the task before you accept.
3. Can you handle pushback from other people?
Whether it’s your best friend asking or a family member, someone is bound to be unhappy that you’ve been chosen as the other party’s medical proxy. Some people consider it a personal affront not to be chosen for the role. Others just may feel that you aren’t the right person — or they may not like the decisions you’re making. If you can’t stand your ground in the face of their criticism or hostility, you may have a problem doing your job.
If you’re seeking information about health care proxies, an attorney can help you learn more.