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Chapter 3. Substitute Decision Making > Free Advice (and Worth Every Penny)

Free Advice (and Worth Every Penny)

It is not enough to make a Health Care Proxy. It is also important for it to be known that you have one. I advise that duplicate original versions of the Health Care Proxy be executed, with one duplicate original given to your primary care physician. It is also important to discuss your wishes regarding all areas of your health care and treatment with your health care agent. Also, the U.S. Living Will Registry operates a nationwide program for the storage of Health Care Proxies at no charge to the public. Once filed with them, your Health Care Proxy is available to hospitals and other health care providers at any time. More information about them can be found on line at www.uslivingwillregistry.com.

Religious considerations are often important to people when they make a Health Care Proxy. Various religious organizations provide sample Health Care Proxies consistent with their faith. You can use these as written or, if you wish to vary them somewhat, you can incorporate some of their provisions into nonsectarian Health Care Proxy forms.

According to an old joke, an elderly man was talking with his friends about his plans to marry a much younger woman. Out of concern, one of his friends asked him, “Don’t you know that could be fatal?” The elderly man quickly responded by saying, “If she dies, she dies.” That joke came to mind when I read about a case in which an elderly man who married a much younger woman went into an irreversible coma not long after their wedding. There was no Health Care Proxy, and a prolonged court battle ensued between the young wife and an adult child from a previous marriage of the comatose man. The wife argued to the judge that her husband would want to be kept alive by all means necessary, while the son argued that his father would not want this kind of an existence prolonged. Unfortunately, there was no Health Care Proxy to provide guidance. You might question the wife’s intentions, though, because of a prenuptial agreement that provided her with significantly more money if the marriage were to last longer. In any event, the judge never did make a decision because right before he was going to do so, the elderly man passed away. However, this story clearly indicates the importance of having a Health Care Proxy.

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