What’s a Health Care Surrogate?
April 6, 2013
By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
A health care surrogate is similar to a power of attorney. It appoints someone to act on your behalf, but is limited to health care decisions rather than financial and administrative affairs. This is an important document because it empowers you to determine who will make your health care decisions in the event that you are unable to do so yourself or immediately if you so designate (a 2015 statutory change).
Too often people fail to execute this relatively simple document. Consequently, someone with whom you may not approve may be charged with making important decisions on your behalf. Note, this document is different from a living will, which simply expresses your wish to be artificially prolonged on life support in the event that you are in a terminally ill or in a persistent vegetative state.
The unfortunate case of Terri Schiavo depicts the need for that document. In that case which received national exposure, a woman’s parents fought her husband for many years in court over the decision to keep her alive artificially on life support.
Why Execute a Health Care Surrogate?
Remember, this document is effective only if and when you are unable to make your own decisions. You’re essentially appointing a back-up decision maker. Sometimes you may prefer to appoint your spouse as health care surrogate. Other times you may prefer your parents or both of your siblings instead of just one person. In some situations, you want a family member or friend that is a medical professional to be appointed either as sole or co-surrogate to ensure that the most appropriate decision is made for you.
The situation may boil down to a matter of trust in peoples’ abilities to make hard decisions. Think about who you would want making your health care decisions if you aren’t able to do so yourself.
If you haven’t executed this document already, who do you think would be making these types of decisions for you? Are you certain? Do you want to be? Your health is your most precious asset. Honor that by executing a simple document.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose
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