Who will make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so for yourself? Will family members disagree about your care, especially in the event of terminal illness and life support systems? In a Health Care Proxy you determine who will make decisions on your behalf if the unexpected happens and set out the guidelines for doing so. Your Health Care Proxy can name someone, and several alternates, that you trust to make the decisions that you would make if you were able. If you already have a Health Care Proxy, you should review it regularly to be sure your appointed Agent is still able to perform under the document and that your Agent’s contact information is still accurate. As indicated, it is a good idea to name at least one alternate Agent to act in case your primary Agent is unavailable to act for any reason.

A Living Will Declaration is a statement of your wishes with respect to life support systems in the event you are terminally ill. Although a Living Will is not binding under Massachusetts law, it serves as a statement to your Health Care Agent, as well as your physician, family and friends, of what you want to happen should you be unable to survive without life support systems and not otherwise expected to recover. If you have a Living Will Declaration, you should review it occasionally to be sure it still accurately reflects your wishes.

Also consider adding a HIPAA Authorization to your health care documents, which is a release of your medical records to your Health Care Agent should he or she be called upon to make a decision on your behalf. It may seem obvious that a Health Care Agent will need access to medical records, but with the stringent Federal privacy laws, it is recommended that you have a specific release of records for your Health Care Agent. HIPAA refers to the Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Ace of 1996.