Advance Directives and Health Care Proxy

Advance directives are documents giving direction to health care providers, including Christian Science nursing facilities, about treatment choices in certain circumstances. An advance directive allows you to clearly state your feelings in writing so there will not be any confusion or misunderstanding.

Two Types of Advance Directives

    1. A Health Care Proxy, also known as a “durable power of attorney” in some states, allows you to name a healthcare surrogate/patient advocate to act for you and carry out your wishes should you be unable at a time of need to do so.
    2. A living will allows you to state your wishes in writing, with regard to consenting to or refusing medical treatments that are designed to artificially prolong life, but does not name a healthcare surrogate/patient advocate.

Health Care Proxy/Durable Power of Attorney

The importance of a Health Care Proxy

Everyone should have a health care proxy. A health care proxy can be used to accept or refuse any treatment.  A health care proxy goes into effect only when you are not able to make decisions for yourself.

If you don’t have a health care proxy you should not assume that family and friends would be able to speak for you in the case of an emergency. In Massachusetts, for instance, only the health care proxy agent or the state can speak for an individual unable to speak for himself.

Choosing an Advocate

You can pick a family member, friend or any other person you trust, but be sure the person you choose is willing to serve.

Click here for a few tips to make it easier to get a health care proxy.

Specific Language for Christian Scientists

If you want your healthcare surrogate/patient advocate to be able to refuse any treatment, you must say so specifically in the health care proxy document — you will also need to add language should you desire care in a Christian Science nursing facility, or care by a Christian Science nurse in your home.

We’re happy to share our sample form with anyone interested in language which might be used by Christian Scientists in health care advance directives regardless of where they live:

  • If you live in Massachusetts, as mentioned above, the BA maintains a Massachusetts health care proxy form for individuals who wish to use it. (Health Care Proxy – Massachusetts Sample) You may choose to use an attorney as you consider its language and provisions. This health care proxy is current with Massachusetts state law. It includes language and options often specified by Christian Scientists.
  • If you live outside of Massachusetts, there are several options. If an attorney is helping you, they may find our sample document a helpful resource because of the specific language it contains.

Next Steps

These are legal documents and can best be prepared by an attorney. Basic advance directive forms can also be found on the Internet and should be customized to fit your wishes. In all cases, be sure to read every word to make certain you agree with it. Remember that these forms are written from the standpoint of medical care.

Once you have executed (reviewed and signed) your health care advance directive you should make at least four photocopies. Keep the original for yourself where it can be found easily (not a safe-deposit box). Give copies to care providers, your agent (also called your advocate), and alternate agent. You can also give additional copies to family members, Christian Science practitioners, lawyers, and others who may be involved in your health care decision-making.