As long as your loved one is competent (able to evaluate information and make her own decisions) she has the right to decide on medical treatments herself.
If your loved one becomes unable to make her own decisions
- and has named you as a health care proxy, you will be able to make almost any treatment decision on her behalf.
For more information on how a health care proxy works, click on the link in the GO TO box.
- and has no legal document that names someone to make treatment decisions on her behalf, rules vary from state to state as to who can make “surrogate” decisions. In many states the next of kin can make medical decisions; some states accept a “close friend” as a surrogate. Be aware that in some cases, a surrogate may not be able to decide whether to continue or withhold life-sustaining treatments. Because of their final nature, end-of-life decisions may fall to doctors or hospital administrators. And if family members disagree on treatment and who should be the surrogate, they may take the battle to court.
If you are caring for a loved one, it is critical that you talk to her immediately about creating a health care proxy document (also referred to as medical power of attorney, durable power of attorney for health, or appointment of a health care agent), so she can name the person she wants (either you or someone else) as her “agent” or “proxy” to make health care decisions for her if she were to become unable to communicate her wishes because of temporary or permanent illness or injury. In fact, naming a proxy is an important step that both you and your loved one should take, ideally well before an emergency arises.
You should also make sure you know whether your loved one has any other “advance directive” documents
(such as a “living will” or, if she is very sick, a “do-not resuscitate order”) that advise on her health care preferences in the event that she can not speak for herself. Make sure you know her feelings on life-sustaining measures.
For more information on legal documents both you and your loved one can create to make sure that your health care preferences are honored, click on the links in the GO TO box.