The Differences Between a Health Care Proxy and Living Will


Clients often inquire about health care proxies and living wills and wonder what the difference is between the two, if any.  A health care proxy is simply a document where you appoint someone to make health care decisions if you become incapable of making them on your own.   These decisions are usually general in nature and include items such as surgery, blood transfusions, and other treatments.  Ordinarily, unless combined with a living will in the same document, the health care proxy does not permit the agent to make end-of-life decisions.   A living will is usually a free-standing document which states to the world one’s wishes regarding life and death decisions, and does not usually give the right to make these decisions to anyone in particular.  Of course, the health care proxy and living will can be combined in one document, in order to give the agent the authority to make end-of-life decisions, in which event the decision is usually at the discretion of the agent.