Are You A Healthcare Proxy?
You have been chosen to be a Healthcare Proxy because someone trusts
you to speak on their behalf in a medical crisis.
When the person selecting you completed the Living Voice program,
they identified you as the person they want to make medical decisions
when they couldn't make those decisions themselves. Being someone's
proxy is an honor that does not have to be a burden. The key is knowing
Living Voice is designed to help prepare you for this important role.
If you have questions about being a Healthcare Proxy, click on
the options below for more information.
Resources for you:
What does it mean to be a Healthcare Proxy?
There are many things to know about this role and the person who has put
their trust in you.
Select a question below to be better prepared for your role as a
Being a Healthcare Proxy means representing the medical wishes of
someone who cannot speak for themself.
To do this job well, it’s crucial that you understand the patient’s
values, goals, and preferences –specifically as they relate to medical
treatment. Your job is not to make medical decisions, but rather to
express to doctors and other members of the healthcare team what the
patient would have wanted.
The Living Voice program asks users to choose someone who is trusted,
willing to speak on their behalf, and knows their values and preferences
about medical treatment.
The user believed that you were the best choice, would be available,
and would have the judgment and strength to make good decisions, based
on their values, during an emotionally trying time.
Talk with the person who chose you, so you can be sure what matters most
To be a Healthcare Proxy, you need to be able to:
- Accept the responsibility of speaking for another person when they cannot
- Respect that person’s wishes …even when it’s not what you think is best
- Make sure that person’s wishes are followed …even when it’s not what you would want
- Stand by that person … when the going gets rough
If you’re going to serve in this role, it’s important that you speak with the
person who asked you ––so you have a shared understanding of what you are able
What should I do?
As someone’s Healthcare Proxy, you will be expected to make decisions on
their behalf when they cannot speak for themselves. To be properly
prepared, it is important to:
The person who chose you to be their Healthcare Proxy needs to
document this in writing. This can be done using the print-out from
Living Voice, which formally designates you as the proxy medical
decision maker. In most states, this form must be witnessed and/or
notarized to be legal.
It’s a good idea to get a copy of the signed Healthcare Proxy
document, and be sure it has been shared with the person’s
loved ones and healthcare team.
As a Healthcare Proxy, you won’t need to speak for someone else until
that person loses decision making capacity. But it’s important to talk
with that person NOW about their:
- Values, goals, and preferences for medical care in life-or-death situations
- Wishes about receiving CPR, kidney dialysis, breathing machines, and feeding tubes
- Views regarding hospice and palliative care
Review these issues with them, and also find out if there is anyone they would
(or would not) want you to speak with before you make medical decisions.
The reason you should review a person’s advance directive with them
is so that you can act with confidence if called upon to be their voice
for medical decisions. The Living Voice document is designed to help
patients and their Healthcare Proxy be clear about what should be
done when life-or-death medical decisions must be made. But to do
this, you need to talk with the person to make sure you fully
understand their wishes.
Start the conversation
Now that you are a Healthcare Proxy, the most important next step is to
have a conversation with the person you have been asked to represent. The
following tips can help get the conversation going.
You might begin by asking the person to tell you a story about an
end-of-life experience that made an impression on them –then explore
how this relates to their own views.
You can also ask whether they want you to strictly follow the wishes
documented in their advance directive, or instead use your judgment
about what you think they’d want.
Another question to ask is whether any of their wishes regarding
medical care are more important than others.
You might also ask them to tell you about activities or interests
that make their life meaningful, and whether there are particular
kinds of medical conditions they think would be unbearable.
It’s a good idea to find out the name and contact information for the
person’s doctor. That way, you can introduce yourself, so they know
about your role as Healthcare Proxy.
You can also ask if they would like you to join them at an upcoming
It can also be helpful to find out if there is anyone they would
(or would not) want you to speak with before you make medical
Ask if their advance directive reflects their current wishes, and
whether it takes into account their current state of health.
Ask where their signed advance directive documents (including the
Healthcare Proxy) can be found, and who they’ve been shared with.
Make sure your current contact information is on the Healthcare
Revisit the conversation periodically so you can be confident
that you’re up-to-date on their most current wishes.