Even if you have enjoyed good health throughout your life, you may eventually suffer a catastrophic injury or develop a debilitating illness. If that happens, you may not be able to make medical choices for yourself. Still, you probably feel uncomfortable with losing control over your health care.
In Massachusetts, you can designate a health care proxy to make medical decisions on your behalf. While the law in the commonwealth allows almost anyone to serve in this capacity, not everyone you know is likely to make a good health care proxy.
Because they often involve life-or-death issues, health care matters can be difficult to discuss. Nevertheless, your health care proxy must understand how you feel about medical treatments, medication, life support and resuscitation. If you cannot discuss these matters freely with the person you are thinking about designating as your health care proxy, you should probably continue your search.
Your health care proxy need not be a doctor or have extensive medical knowledge, but he or she should be familiar with your health-related issues. This is particularly true if you have a chronic condition or a progressively debilitating one. Therefore, you should designate a health care proxy who has the competency to make informed medical decisions for you.
Your health care wishes may not align with those of your doctors, family members, friends or spiritual advisors. Because you do not want your health care proxy to give in to pressure and make decisions you would not make, you should pick one who is willing to push back when necessary.
Regardless of your age or medical history, you should not take the selection of your health care proxy lightly. Having meaningful conversations with all prospective proxies is an effective way to ensure you choose the right one.