Durable power of attorney for health care; Health care proxy
What Is a Health Care Agent?
A health care agent is someone you choose to make health care decisions for you when you cannot.
A health care agent is also called a health care proxy. This person will act only when you are not able to.
Why Have a Health Care Agent
When you are unable to speak for yourself due to an illness, your health care providers may be unclear as to what type of care you would like.
Your family members may be uncertain or disagree about the type of medical care you should receive. Decisions about your medical care may then be made by doctors, hospital administrators, a court-appointed guardian, or judges.
A health care agent chosen by you can help your health care providers, family, and friends make decisions during a stressful time.
Your agent’s duty is to see that your wishes are followed. If your wishes aren’t known, your agent should try to decide what you want.
Health care agents are not required, but they are the best way to be sure your wishes for health care treatment are followed.
What the Health Care Agent Can Do
If you have an advance directive or living will, your health care agent can make sure your wishes are followed. Your agent’s choices come before anyone else’s wishes for you.
If you do not have a living will or an advanced directive, your health care agent will be the one to help your health care providers make important choices.
Your health care agenthas no control over your money.Your agent also can’t be made to pay your bills.
What an agent can and can’t do differs by state. Check your state laws.In most states your agent can:
A health care proxy is a simple legal paper that you fill out. You can get a form online, at your doctor’s office, hospital, or senior citizen centers.
In the form you will list the name of your health care agent, and any backups.
Many states require witness signatures on the form.
A health care proxy is not a living will. A living will is a written statement that can include your health care wishes. Unlike a living will, the health care proxy allows you to name a health care agent to carry out those wishes if you cannot.
It is important to know that you can change your mind about health care choices at any time. If you change your mind, or if your health changes, talk to your doctor. Be sure to tell your health care agent about any changes in your wishes.
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.