Choosing a Healthcare Proxy

Below is a selected portion of my notes from a class I taught to lawyers (edited here to delete some of the “lawyer-speak”) who offer estate planning services to their clients. You may find some helpful thoughts on choosing your own health-care proxy.  Remember, you do not have to make your estate planning decisions on your own.  We are here to help you.  Call for an appointment 405-733-8686. 

Appointing the Right Health Care Proxy

You might not expect the Oklahoma statutes to provide much guidance for choosing your health care proxy, but in this instance your intuition may not be correct. Section 3101.16 of title 63 states “An individual making life-sustaining treatment decisions pursuant to the provisions of the Oklahoma Advance Directive Act for a declarant shall make such decisions based on the known intentions, personal views and best interests of the declarant… ”

From this you can easily glean some guidance: first,  appoint a health care proxy who can reasonably be expected to know your intentions and personal views. Somewhat regularly, my friends have the somewhat inappropriate desire to appoint the person from their family whom they’ve not used for any other task as their health care proxy. Quite often that is the person with whom you have had the least contact, for whom you have the least trust, and the one least likely to have any idea of your personal views concerning your end-of-life desires, beliefs, and expectations.  Second, appoint the health care proxy that is most likely to actually carry out your desires and expectations  (perhaps indicating you should not choose the softest of heart in your family).

This is the time when your closest friends and family will be at their most emotional and most vulnerable state of mind; with that in mind, choose the person that is likely to be strong and decisive, not sobbing and easily influenced by the emotional carrying on of the other family members.

Unfortunately, there is some reason to believe that those of us who are more resolute and less empathetic and therefore more likely to be forceful even when under stress, may be the persons who are least likely to have the deep caring and emotional conversations during which mom is going to reveal her end-of-life desires and expectations.

Lest it go without saying, and therefore not cross your mind, please be sure that the proxy is at least 18 years old, ask if this person is willing to serve when called on, and choose someone likely to be readily available to serve (you might want to avoid using the son or daughter who lives and works in Kuwait).

If those factors were not daunting enough, the statute requires that the health care proxy keep your “best interest”  as a top priority. This sounds good until you consider it closely. By a careful reading of the statute and the advance directive for health care, you can determine that the declarant is unable to make their own decisions, probably unable to communicate, and almost certainly close to death. Given those parameters, there are few among us who really know what is in the best interest of the person in this situation. My personal guess is that the individual who most loudly claims to know what is best for the person who is dying may be the one least likely to be the best person to handle the decision.


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