Your Health Care Agent

Your Health Care Agent

You should give careful thought to the choice of a health care agent (also referred to as surrogate or proxy in some states). Your agent should be someone you are close to and trust completely. An agent's responsibilities are often set forth in a state's laws. Generally, an agent may be expected to consult with health care providers and make informed decisions. Therefore, you should choose someone who is capable of understanding medical matters when explained by a doctor or other health care provider.

An agent is required to make decisions based on what he or she believes you would decide under the circumstances. Therefore, you and your intended agent should discuss various possible injury and illness scenarios, and what type of treatment you would or would not want in certain circumstances, and include these details in your living will and health care power of attorney. Some questions that should be asked and answered include the following:

  • How do you feel about life-prolonging procedures?
  • What types of medical procedures would you want or not want?
  • Do you feel the same about these things in relation to being in a permanent coma as you do in relation to a terminal condition?
  • If you were to be withdrawn from life-prolonging procedures, would you want that to include withholding water and feeding by artificial means?

These are just a few of the types of questions to be considered and discussed. You might also want to discuss your religious beliefs. All of this, along with the written document, would help your agent make decisions for you. It might even help your agent defend his or her decision if challenged by another family member about what you would really want.