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Health care proxy: Patient and agent need to be on the same page

Some Delaware residents feel a sense of accomplishment after making difficult decisions. While this feeling of accomplishment may be warranted, it is also important to remember that making the right decision is better than making just any decision, especially when it comes to creating a health care proxy. It is certainly vital for individuals to choose parties to make medical decisions on their behalves, but it is also important that patient and agent are on the same page.

A recent study from Stanford University looked at the relationships between 80 patients and their appointed health care proxy agents. Because this relationship involves making medical decisions on behalf of someone who can no longer make them for him or herself, the study had patients and their agents fill out care directive forms and then compare answers. At the end of this part of the study, researchers found that all patients and their agents differed in opinion on how certain care should be handled.

After learning this outcome, the patients and agents then discussed their choices and filled out a new form together. In the majority of cases, the agents were willing to follow the patients' choices rather than imposing their own. The study also encouraged everyone to try this type of experiment with their health care agents.

This study shows that without proper communication, a health care agent could end up making decisions that a patient would not have agreed with. While it is certainly important to create a health care proxy, Delaware residents may want to take the time to make sure they are on the same page with their chosen agents. This step may help prevent undesired outcomes in the future.

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