Massachusetts Health Care Proxy
A Massachusetts health care proxy is a form that gives an agent permission to make decisions for a principal if they are unable to do so themselves. It can be used for medical emergencies, short-term needs, or long-term care. The principal must appoint a trustworthy agent who is eighteen (18) years of age or older. A care provider cannot act as the agent while providing care. In other words, the roles must be separate. The agent is not liable for decisions made in good faith.
An agent cannot act for the principal unless they become incapacitated or pass away. This person is in charge of making decisions regarding the principal’s medical care decisions, medical care facilities, doctors (and other providers) who oversee medical care, and the principal’s location and care provider. If the principal endures a medical event and does not have an active medical power of attorney, then the court will appoint an agent (also known as a conservator), which is usually a close family member.
State Laws: Chapter 201D
Signing Requirements (Chapter 201D, Section 2): Must be signed by the principal in the presence of two (2) adult witnesses (who must also sign the proxy).
Additional Information: Before signing the proxy alongside the agent, the principal should make sure their agent has a thorough understanding of the duties and responsibilities required of them per Chapter 201D, Section 5, as well as important information on how they can use the proxy, which includes:
- The agent is required to make decisions in line with the principal’s wishes. In the case that the principal did not strictly outline their wishes for a certain topic, the agent needs to make a decision that they believe would be what the principal would want.
- By signing the form, the agent will have the right to receive any and all medical information as if they were the principal themselves.
- IMPORTANT: If the principal signed a durable power of attorney with another agent, the agent named in the health care proxy overrides the say of the agent (and all other parties) acting in the durable power of attorney. The only exception is if a court order mandates that the proxy be overruled.
- Healthcare providers are required, by law, to take what the agent says as though it was the principal saying it themselves.