Attorney Mayo Talks Law - Health Care Proxies: Grounds for Caution!

A matter of trust...
Jonathan D. Mayo, Esq.

Welcome back to "Attorney Mayo Talks Law"

Now many of us are familiar with Massachusetts' Healthcare Proxy forms. They authorize a trusted party to make all medical decisions for someone who is incapacitated. But unless the party appointing a proxy makes specific exclusions to the proxy power, that power includes decisions to terminate life support , refuse life-saving treatment, or to issue "Do Not Resuscitate" orders, ("DNRs").

Imagine the situation if  a proxy, who is also an heir, worries about their  "inheritance"  being spent on a lengthy recovery, hospitalization  and rehabilitation, and actually  issues a  DNR order on their incapacitated relative, or orders that life support be terminated. Evil and atrocious to be sure, but It happens. And unless the incapacitated party specifically excluded powers of DNR and termination of life support from the proxy power granted, a proxy is free to make these decisions.

Obviously some loved ones are trusted so deeply that even the granting of substantial proxy powers can be done without reservation. Other folks may be situated such that that DNR is desired. But care must be taken to avoid granting too much proxy power where the person granting proxy would never dream of issuing a DNR on themselves, or terminating life support prematurely. For those who actually desire DNR status, that can be made official.

In conclusion, take time to write personalized exclusions for health care proxies. Pause to think about the powers you are granting, and how expansive they can be if left unlimited.

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