What would happen if you were accidentally knocked unconscious and had to be taken to the emergency room? Would doctors know who to go to with questions about your care?
A health care proxy form is a legal document that names a trusted person who can make medical decisions for you if you are unable to speak for yourself.
“Everyone should name a health care proxy – whether they’re a patient or not,” explains Bruce MacDonald, MSW, LICSW, a social worker at Dana-Farber. “While patients with cancer may be more at risk of having a serious health issue, unexpected medical events can happen to anyone. That‘s why all of us should have someone who can legally help make decisions about the care we might want if we were to become ill or injured. Hopefully it never needs to be used, but it’s there just in case.”
MacDonald offers the following tips:
- Anyone can fill out and sign a health care proxy form. It does not cost money or require a lawyer’s help.
- Copies of the form are available free at Dana-Farber or from the Institute’s website, in both English and Spanish.
- An important part of filling out the form involves talking with a close friend or loved one – so that he or she has a clear picture of your health care preferences.
“Conversations are key, because you want to be sure that your health care proxy knows your values and what treatments you might prefer if you were unable to speak for yourself,” MacDonald says. “Talk about what you are and aren’t willing to go through after an accident or illness. Having these conversations doesn’t mean you’re giving up or you think you’re going to die. It puts you in control, so your wishes are known and can be followed. It’s all about making sure the person you trust has the information he or she needs, so everyone can worry less about the future and live each day to the fullest.”
For additional information on health care proxies, visit The Conversation Project.