Health Care Proxy

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on September 01, 2023

Get Any Financial Question Answered

What Is a Health Care Proxy?

A health care proxy is a legal document that appoints an individual, referred to as a health care agent, to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so yourself.

The purpose of having a health care proxy is to ensure that your medical preferences are honored and respected during times of incapacity. Having a health care proxy is essential for preserving your autonomy in medical decision-making.

It allows you to designate someone who knows and understands your values and preferences to make important decisions on your behalf. In the absence of a health care proxy, these decisions may fall to family members or medical professionals who may not be fully aware of your desires.

Health care proxies are regulated by state laws, which may vary in their requirements. However, most states mandate that the individual designated as your proxy be at least 18 years old, and that the document be signed by you and witnessed by two individuals who are not designated as proxies.

Choosing a Health Care Proxy

Factors to Consider When Selecting a Proxy

When selecting a health care proxy, consider the following factors:


Choose someone you trust to make decisions that align with your values and wishes.


Select an individual who is likely to be available and reachable in a medical emergency.

Willingness to Fulfill the Role

Ensure that the person you choose is willing to take on the responsibility of being your health care proxy.

Understanding of Your Values and Preferences

Pick someone who is knowledgeable about your medical preferences and values to ensure that they can make informed decisions on your behalf.

Factors to Consider When Selecting a Health Care Proxy

Alternatives to a Single Proxy

If you are unable to identify a single suitable proxy, consider the following alternatives:


You can designate two or more individuals to serve as co-proxies, who must collaborate to make decisions on your behalf.

Successor Proxies

You can appoint a primary proxy and a successor proxy, with the successor stepping in if the primary proxy is unable or unwilling to fulfill their duties.

Communicating With Your Health Care Proxy

Discussing Your Medical Preferences

To help your proxy make informed decisions, discuss the following topics:

General Treatment Philosophy

Share your overall approach to medical treatment, including your preferences for aggressive or conservative interventions.

Specific Medical Interventions

Discuss your thoughts on specific medical procedures, such as resuscitation, mechanical ventilation, and artificial nutrition.

Personal and Religious Beliefs

Communicate any religious or personal beliefs that may influence your medical decision-making.

Addressing Potential Scenarios

Consider discussing the following potential scenarios with your proxy:

Terminal Illness

Outline your preferences for treatment in the event of a terminal illness.

Persistent Vegetative State

Share your thoughts on the continuation or withdrawal of treatment if you were to enter a persistent vegetative state.

Severe Brain Injury

Discuss your preferences for care in the case of a severe brain injury.

Providing Resources and Support

To help your proxy make informed decisions, provide them with the following resources and support:

Advance Directives

Create an advance directive, a legal document outlining your medical preferences in specific situations.

Health Care Professionals

Encourage your proxy to consult with medical professionals when making decisions.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

Inform your proxy about the legal and ethical aspects of decision-making in your jurisdiction.

Creating and Updating Your Health Care Proxy Documentation

Required Legal Forms

To create a valid health care proxy, complete the following steps:

State-Specific Requirements

Consult your state's laws and regulations to ensure that your health care proxy meets all legal requirements.

Witness Signatures

Obtain signatures from two witnesses who are not designated as proxies.


Some states require notarization of the health care proxy document. Consult your state's laws to determine if this applies to you.

Storing and Distributing Copies

To ensure that your health care proxy is accessible when needed, distribute copies to the following individuals and organizations:

Primary Care Provider

Provide a copy to your primary care physician to be included in your medical records.

Family Members

Share copies with close family members so they are aware of your wishes and the identity of your proxy.

Health Care Facilities

Provide copies to any health care facilities where you regularly receive treatment.

Distributing Copies From Your Health Care Proxy

Periodic Review and Updates

Regularly review and update your health care proxy documentation to reflect:

Changes in Personal Preferences

Update your document if your medical preferences or values change.

New Medical Conditions

Revise your proxy document to address any new medical conditions or diagnoses.

Changes in Proxy's Circumstances

If your proxy's circumstances change, such as moving away or becoming unable to fulfill their duties, update your document accordingly.

Health Care Proxy and End-Of-Life Care

Role of the Proxy in Decision-Making

During end-of-life care, your health care proxy will be responsible for:

Interacting With the Medical Team

Your proxy will communicate with your medical team to ensure that your preferences are respected.

Advocating for Patient’s Preferences

Your proxy will advocate for your preferences and ensure that your wishes are honored.

Resolving Conflicts

In the event of disagreements among family members or medical professionals, your proxy will work to resolve conflicts and uphold your preferences.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

When making end-of-life decisions, your proxy should be aware of the following legal and ethical considerations:

Informed Consent

Your proxy should ensure that they have adequate information to make informed decisions on your behalf.

Withholding or Withdrawing Treatment

Your proxy should understand the legal and ethical implications of withholding or withdrawing treatment.

Palliative Care and Hospice

Your proxy should be knowledgeable about palliative care and hospice options and be prepared to make decisions regarding these services.

Legal and Ethical Considerations for Health Care Proxies


Planning for future health care decisions is essential to ensure that your medical preferences are respected and honored during times of incapacity.

Having a health care proxy provides you with a trusted individual who will make medical decisions on your behalf, safeguarding your autonomy and ensuring your preferences are followed.

It is important to discuss your medical preferences with your health care proxy and document them in a legally valid manner. Regularly review and update your documentation to ensure it remains accurate and relevant.

Health Care Proxy FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

Search Estate Planning Law Firms in Your Area