Their Decision, Not Yours – The Duty of a Health Care Proxy

Their Decision, Not Yours – The Duty of a Health Care Proxy


The New York Times has a recent article called “An Ill Father, A Life and Death Decision.” It’s about a daughter who has been appointed as the health care proxy for her father.  This means that when he is unable to make or communicate his health care decisions, she communicates his wishes to his health care providers. Notice that her role is not to make the decisions for him.  In the story, her father is sick again – his liver, lungs and kidneys are failing. The doctors ask her if they should intubate him.
 
I am acutely tempted to answer, “Of course not — my father would not want heroic measures.” But I hesitate because I know it might not be true. In the past, he has wanted everything possible done. This night is different, but I do not know if his answer would be different.
 
I look at my father. It is hard to tell if he is conscious. No one else is looking at my father. Everyone is watching me closely.
 
Finally, I say out loud the only thing I know to be true. “In the past, my father has asked that everything possible be done.”
 
Then I bend over my father and ask him in a clear, strong voice: “Daddy, do you want to be intubated again? Squeeze my hand if you want to be intubated.” I wait, but he does not squeeze. Instead, he surprises us all by nodding his head. He is weak, but the nod is unmistakable.
 
In the story, the nurses seem annoyed that they chose this invasive procedure.
 
Read more at Massachusetts Estate Planning and Elder Law, blog of Leanna Hamill.
 
Leanna Hamill is the principal attorney at her estate planning and elder law firm in Hingham, Massachusetts.  She helps strong families through trying times – to protect their choices, preserve their relationships and pass down the things that matter." To learn more about Leanna Hamill’s practice, visit her website.