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Advance Directive For Mental Health

How To Choose A Proxy For Mental Health Decisions

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When deciding who to ask to be your Proxy for mental health decisions, consider:

  • The person's age.
    • You do not want someone who cannot make a legally binding decision (say under age 18).
    • At the other extreme, a person of advanced age may not be here to make decisions when needed.
  • The person's mental and emotional ability. Preferably, a Proxy should be someone who:
    • Can understand what is happening and the alternatives.
    • Can apply your wishes to the situation.
    • Can make objective decisions even when there is a great deal of emotion involved.
    • Knows you and your wishes.
  • How comfortable you are discussing these issues with the person.
  • Whether the person respects your right to receive the level of treatment that you want, even if your wishes differ from the person's own wishes in a similar situation.
  • Whether the person has a financial interest in whether you are declared mentally incompetent.
  • Whether the person is strong and assertive enough to enforce your wishes should there be a conflict:
    • Without being intimidated by medical professionals. (Can he or she shout at a doctor if necessary?)
    • Possibly even against the opinions of other family members.
  • Whether the person will be available and accessible to you and your medical providers, preferably in person or at least by phone.
  • As a practical matter, it is wise to name the same person as proxy for mental health decisions as you do to be proxy for health care decisions so there is no conflict. It doesn't matter whether a person you give authority to concerning your financial matters is the same - these are two different issues.             


  • In some states, if you appoint a spouse as a Proxy, the spouse's right is automatically terminated in the event of a divorce or legal separation, unless you provide to the contrary in the Advance Directive for Mental Health.
  • Be sure to discuss your wishes with your Proxy.  

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