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Carefully drafting an effective healthcare proxy

Creating a healthcare proxy is a sensible step for many Ohio residents preparing for the possibility they may lose the capacity to make their own healthcare decisions. However, like any similar document, a health proxy should usually be drafted with care. Similarly, the choice of attorney in fact— the one who makes decisions on behalf of an incapacitated individual— typically requires significant consideration.

Those unfamiliar with health proxies often mistake them for general powers of attorney. FindLaw makes the distinction that, in contrast to a health proxy, the text of a power of attorney often explicitly removes the power to make health care decisions from the document's scope. Therefore, it might benefit those considering their estate in detail to create both documents.

Creating a proxy in Ohio is similar to doing so in the other states that allow these documents. The Ohio Revised Code contains an informative notice about health proxies, known technically as a durable power of attorney for health care. The notice lists the three actions an attorney-in-fact might take on behalf of the individual who executed the health proxy:

  • Agree to medical care
  • Refuse medical procedures
  • Cancel ongoing care

Many people choose to limit these privileges. Conversely, some people decide to extend the powers in the document. For example, the notice in the Ohio code mentions that a health proxy might be modified to allow the withdrawal of consent to nutrition and hydration to comatose patients.

The effectiveness of these modifications once the power of attorney begins often depends on a complex web of medical ethics and state laws. Two factors reinforce the need for careful initial drafting of these documents: this legal complexity and the inability— by definition— of an incapacitated individual to modify the power of attorney once it takes effect.

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