Four common questions about the medical proxy.

At Canopy, we get a plethora of questions about advance care planning (ie: the process of planning your end-of-life healthcare in advance). The questions vary, but here are four common ones we often hear.

What is a medical proxy?

A “medical proxy” is the person who has the legal authority to make healthcare decisions for you, if you cannot make decisions or speak for yourself. A medical proxy can be a family member, partner, friend or someone you feel knows you well. Depending on where in the country you live, the term will vary. For examples, some states call this person a patient advocate.

When does my medical proxy’s authority begin?

Your medical proxy’s authority only kicks in when your loved one cannot communicate or when your loved one cannot make decisions for themselves. Their doctors will examine them and decide if they have the capacity to speak for themselves and make their own decisions. If they lack this ability, the doctors will call in the primary medical proxy.

If I am a medical proxy, can I make other non-healthcare decisions (i.e. finances, assets)?

The medical proxy only makes healthcare decisions. For example, for funeral or finance decisions, there are other forms your loved one will need to fill out.

What do I, as the medical proxy, need to do to make my role official?

It depends on where you live in the United States. In many cases, you may not need to do anything. Depending on your state, you may need to sign an acceptance form. In other words, you might need to sign a form officially accepting this responsibility. Regardless of where you live, we strongly recommend you speak with the person who chose you as their medical proxy. This will help ensure you are clear on what they desire.

To read through more questions, check out our FAQ page. If you have more questions after reading our FAQs or just would like to say hello, send us a message at And if you’re ready to get started with your advance care planning, click here.

We look forward to hearing from you and supporting your Advance Care Planning journey!

Elisabeth Michel