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Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Parkinson's Awareness Month: Appointing Health Care Proxies

Parkinson's AwarenessIt is important for anyone to have not only their advance directive completed but also their health proxy completed. A health care proxy is a legal document that allows a patient with Parkinson's Disease (patient) to appoint a health care agent (agent) to make decisions on their behalf in the event that the patient is unable to make decisions on their own. With Parkinson's Disease, the need to complete both of these documents is essential for a number of reasons. First, there is much more of a risk that at some point the patient will be unable to make health care decisions on their own. For example, "there is the additional possibility that communication difficulties, increased physical disability and/or cognitive impairment may interfere with the ability to convey preferences for different treatment options." To designate a health care proxy, the patient only needs to fill out the necessary legal form in their state. 

There are some criteria that a patient might want to take into consider when selecting a health care proxy. The basic rule is simply that it should be someone that the patient trusts and knows well. This person can be a family member or a friend. It is generally accepted that a patient should not choose more than one so that there is no disagreement among the different agents. Most importantly, it is a good idea for a patient to select someone who is an advocate and who will be willing to fight for and carry out the wishes of patient to the letter. Once a person has selected a health care proxy, the patient might want to take the time and talk with their agent. It is imporant that a patient keeps an open line with their agent so that the agent knows what the patient wants in terms of treatment. A patient might want to consider writing a living will to outline what he or she wants in the event of terminal illness.

See Janna Dutton, Delegating Decisions For Health Care, Parkinson's Disease Foundation, Fall 2010.

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