What is Proxy Directive?

Proxy directive is a legal document assigning the health care decisions of an individual to another in the event the individual is incapacitated.

Key Takeaways

  • Proxy directive is a legal document assigning the health care decisions of an individual to another in the event the individual is incapacitated.
  • A proxy directive is typically prepared in consultation with family members, primary physicians and sometimes (though not mandatory) an attorney.
  • Proxy directives are also known as a "living will," "medical directive," "health care proxy," "durable medical power of attorney," or "advance directive."

Understanding Proxy Directive

In an extreme and tragic event in which someone is unable to communicate their wishes for medical care, the proxy directive provides specific instructions for medical professionals. A proxy directive is typically prepared in consultation with family members, primary physicians, and sometimes (though not mandatory) an attorney. Also referred to as a "living will," "medical directive," "health care proxy," "durable medical power of attorney," or "advance directive."

A proxy directive appoints a person to make medical decisions on behalf of the incapacitated individual. The most common situation is when a person is unconscious - e.g., in a comatose state. This single appointee (more than one appointee is not recommended as they may disagree) is given the authority to carry out the instructions in the written document and, if the need arises, to make certain decisions using best judgment in consultation with the attending physicians. A proxy directive can alleviate stress and anxiety among family members about how a situation should be dealt with. An individual who makes their preferences known ahead of time in this legal document gives family members the comfort that the right course of action is being followed in a tragic medical event that leaves the individual in an unconscious state.

Drawing Up a Proxy Directive

A simple proxy directive does not take much effort to prepare. However, a directive that contains a more involved set of instructions is usually prepared after discussions with a primary physician and perhaps other medical professionals, an attorney, and of course, family members or other trusted individuals, one of whom would be willing to carry out the directive. Generally, two adult witnesses should be present during the signing of the document, and it is recommended that a notary public is present as well.