Massachusetts Health Care Proxy
A Massachusetts health care proxy gives an agent permission to make decisions for the creator of this document (the principal) if they cannot do so themselves. The form does not go into effect unless the principal experiences a medical emergency or endures a terminal illness that leaves them unable to write or speak. If either of these situations occurs, then the agent is responsible for carrying out or making medical decisions for the principal as long as they need assistance.
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. As long as the agent makes the medical choices in good faith, they are not responsible if the principal disagrees with the type of care or the treatment worsens their health condition.
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, facilities, doctors (and other providers) who oversee medical care, and the principal’s location and care provider.
If the principal has not created a medical power of attorney, a close family member or friend must schedule a court date. At that time, the judge appoints an agent to make health-related decisions. However, this process can be time-consuming, costly, and burdensome for family or friends. For this reason, the principal should fill out this document, especially if they are older or have been diagnosed with a terminal illness.
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. If the principal did not strictly outline their wishes for a specific topic, the agent needs to base their decision on what they believe the principal would want.
- By signing the form, the agent will have the right to receive 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. However, a court or judge can overrule the proxy.
- Healthcare providers are required, by law, to take what the agent says as though it was the principal saying it themselves.