Healthcare proxy for immigrants
US IMMIGRATION NOTES - Atty. Marco F.G. Tomakin (The Freeman) - September 15, 2019 - 12:00am

As a nurse being my first profession before I became an attorney, I had the opportunity to work as a professional registered nurse here in New York. One of the questions we asked of our patients is if they have signed a healthcare proxy form. Basically, this is a legal document that gives a person you choose to be your agent the authority to make healthcare decisions for you, including the decision to provide or remove life sustaining treatment.

This authority starts to kick in when your doctor determines that you are not able to make healthcare decisions for yourself. As this is a very important legal document, you must know what you are signing, who you are appointing as your agent and your agent must also know the responsibilities that come with it.

In reality, most immigrants I know, especially Filipinos, do not have this form readily signed and available. For one, it is taboo in our society to talk about death and dying let alone having anyone know how we would like to be treated in our remaining days. Also, being appointed an agent is not a task to be taken lightly and not everyone relishes the idea to be appointed as one.

No one wants to take full responsibility especially when your decision involves a choice between life or death. We are a family-centered, family-oriented culture where decisions are made collectively as one family often deferring to our elders (or in some cases to those who shoulder the hospital bills).

However, as I always advise my clients who requests that I prepare a will for them to also include having a healthcare proxy form signed. This eliminates the occasion for intra-family bickering as you have already made known what your healthcare wishes are. Also, this ensures that you still retain control on how your earthly existence will be decided because your agent will have no choice but to carry out your wishes.

I hope that our local legislators will take a look at this simple idea and craft into law a Philippine version of healthcare proxy.

HEALTHCARE
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