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  • If you were to be withdrawn from life-prolonging procedures, would you want that to include withholding water and feeding by artificial means?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.

  • Introduction to Power of Attorney
    A power of attorney is a document that lets you name someone to make decisions on your behalf. This appointment can take effect immediately if you become unable to make those decisions on your own. For example, if you become mentally incapacitated, or leave the country for a period of time, you...
    read more
  • Definition of a Power of Attorney
    A power of attorney is a document you can use to appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf. The person you designate is called an "attorney-in-fact." The appointment can be effective immediately or can become effective only if you are unable to make decisions on...
    read more
  • Durable Power of Attorney Permissions
    You can give your attorney-in-fact as many or as few powers as you want. A power of attorney can authorize your agent to do any or all of the following on your behalf:
    read more
  • Legal Requirements for a Power of Attorney
    There are two essential elements of a valid power of attorney:
    read more
  • Married Couples and Power of Attorney
    You should not assume your spouse will have total control of your finances if you become incapacitated. Although your spouse has some rights over property you own together, like joint bank accounts, he or she is restricted from doing certain things with that property. For example, generally both...
    read more
  • Putting a Power of Attorney into Effect
    A durable power of attorney can be drafted so it becomes effective as soon as you sign it. Alternately, you can specify that it will not become effective unless a doctor certifies that you have become incapacitated. This is called a "springing" power of attorney. It...
    read more