Understanding The Basics

The Health Care Proxy Law establishes a decision–making process that allows competent adults to appoint an agent to decide about health care in the event they become unable to decide for themselves. The Proxy Law does not affect any other fights that adults have to make or express decisions about health care, including decisions about life–sustaining treatment.

The Proxy Law covers decisions to consent or refuse to consent to any treatment, service or procedure to diagnose or treat an individual's physical or mental condition. The law applies to all individuals or facilities licensed, certified, or otherwise permitted by law to provide health care. As used in the Proxy Law, the term "health care provider" refers to both individuals and facilities.

Health care providers must comply with health care decisions made in good faith by an agent to the same extent as decisions made by the patient. The Proxy Law protects health care providers from civil and criminal liability, and liability for unprofessional conduct, for honoring in good faith decisions by an agent, or for other actions taken in good faith in accordance with the law.

Attending physicians have special responsibilities under the law. As defined by the Proxy Law, an attending physician is the physician, selected by or assigned to a patient, who has primary responsibility for the treatment and care of the patient. If more than one physician shares this responsibility, or if a physician is acting on the attending physician's behalf, any of these physicians may act as the patient's attending physician.