4 Questions to Consider When Choosing a Health Care Proxy

By Bruce Spector

Chairman and Co-founder of PinnacleCare and a member of YPO since 1994

Who do you want to make important health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself? This may be one of those topics you may not want to think about, but creating an advanced care plan, well before you face a serious illness or medical emergency, ensures that the person you choose has the authority and information needed to carry out your wishes.

Consider these four questions when choosing a health care proxy, agent or power of attorney.

Is this person able to make decisions effectively under pressure?

Making health care decisions for someone who is seriously ill or gravely injured can be extremely stressful, and decisions may need to be made very quickly. The person you choose should be able to focus on making sure you receive the care you’ve outlined in your advance care plan and that you don’t receive any unwanted intervention.

Will this person be able to meet with your health care providers as needed?

While some decisions can be made after talking with your physicians by phone, it’s usually better to have your proxy present when decisions are being made so he or she can better assess the situation. That means you may want to consider someone who lives near you. Also think about whether the person you are considering has a job that would limit his or her ability to meet with your physicians, for example, someone who is serving in the military or whose job keeps them on the road for most of the week.

Is this person assertive?

Your health care proxy is there to ensure the wishes you outline in your advance care plan are respected. For that reason, it is wise to choose someone who is assertive and who will speak up, ask questions and request second opinions as needed. Some people are hesitant to question a doctor’s recommendations or assessments, so they would probably not be effective at advocating for you.

Does this person understand your religious and moral values?

When choosing a health care proxy, you need to have a frank discussion with the person you are considering so you can share your values and find out if they are willing to carry out your wishes. Your proxy doesn’t necessarily have to adhere to the same values, but you need to know that he or she will respect that wish even if they don’t share your beliefs. In addition, there may be situations you haven’t specifically outlined in our advance care plan where your proxy will need to make decisions based on an understanding of what you would want to have happen.

Your preferences for care may change over time, so this conversation should continue at appropriate moments. Once your chosen health care proxy has agreed to serve in this role, keeping the lines of communication open will help ensure your health care proxy advocates for the care you want.

Note: Legal requirements concerning who can serve in this role vary, so check your local guidelines or speak with an attorney to make sure your wishes will be respected and carried out.

Bruce Spector is the Chairman and Co-founder of PinnacleCare, a YPO medical referral partner since 2006. 

For more than 30 years, Heather has been creating innovative content for a myriad of communities including business leaders, nonprofit, energy, health care, education and aviation. She has been with YPO since 2014, currently serving as Communications Director leading the member communications team.