A Health Care Proxy, commonly known as a Health Care Agent, Medical Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, or Health Care Power of Attorney, is one who is able to go ahead and make necessary healthcare decisions on your behalf, if you are not capable of making your own decisions. This is a kind of document in which you allow someone (an agent or a proxy) to go ahead and express your wishes, in case you are not capable of speaking for yourself.

Why do you require a Health Care Proxy?

There is a possibility that you might become debilitated or injured to the extent that it would be difficult for you to speak for yourself. In such a situation, you would obviously want to appoint someone who is close to you, understands you well, and can make the best decisions on your behalf regarding your health. After you have named him or her as your Health Care Proxy, you will be able to avoid unnecessary discrepancies and arguments amongst your family members about your medical care. Thus, you will have one person appointed who will legally speak for you and make decisions accordingly. You will also feel confident that you have chosen a person who will make the right decisions. The person would even assist you in getting proper medical care as and when you want, even if you are unable to speak for yourself.

Your Health Care Proxy would be able to make decisions on your behalf

  • The person can make appropriate medical choices with regard to surgery, medical tests, and medicine
  • The person has the right to reject or even request life-support treatments
  • The person can make decisions regarding pain management, including authorization or rejection of medical procedures or medication
  • The person can make decisions regarding admission to a hospice living facility, nursing home, or hospital
  • The person can decide where to obtain medical treatment; he or she has the right to move you from one state or hospital to another facility
  • The person has the right to watch and agree about the release of one’s medical records
  • The person is free to take any legal action on your behalf to properly support your health, your wishes, and your healthcare rights
  • A health care proxy has the right to apply for insurance benefits and programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, and many more on your behalf

The duties of a Health Care Proxy

The duty of an appointed proxy would depend on the needs of a patient. Generally, the person will need to follow your “living will” and will avoid the sort of treatment and care you would probably want to stay away from.

Even though it is not possible to foresee every situation that would eventually arise, it is always a good idea to talk to and carry forth a frank conversation with the person about your wishes. It would be good to talk to this person about how you would like to be treated and the different kinds of care you’d wish to receive.


Since 2001, Dr. Alexander G. Salerno has led Salerno Medical Associates in East Orange, New Jersey. Dr. Alexander G. Salerno focuses largely on urban communities and on delivering patient education about both medical and behavioral health issues, including end-of-life care.