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What to know about a healthcare proxy

While no one wants to think of their end of years, it is an important part of estate planning for Iowa residents. People must consider how they want their care to be, such as whether they want a natural progression of death or if they want the medical team to use life-saving devices. A healthcare proxy is a legal document that names an agent to make sure a patient receives the care he or she wants in cases in which there is an inability to make these decisions.

According to Forbes, one reason to name a healthcare agent is to prevent arguments among family members about care. Another is to ensure the patient has control over his or her own medical care. Some of the reasons a health proxy may come into play include:

  • Major accident that results in serious injuries 
  • Terminal illness
  • Coma
  • Dementia

Because you are choosing someone who will be making serious and potentially life-saving decisions on your behalf, it is important to consider numerous factors before choosing a healthcare agent. Some considerations include who is trustworthy, who will follow through with the patient's wishes even if not in agreement, who will not let emotions get in the way, who will ask for clarification and communicate with doctors and who will not be let anyone else persuade them otherwise.

According to Tufts Medical Center, once someone chooses an agent, some things to discuss include if the patient wants life-saving procedures, such as CPR, ventilation, feeding tubes and induced coma. They should also discuss things like organ donation, if the patient would like the agent to take family wishes into consideration and if there is a cost limitation of care.

A patient can make changes to the healthcare proxy, including naming a different agent, at any time. For patients who do not have a healthcare proxy, family members typically make the decisions. If there are no family members, the court will name a guardian.


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