When you decide to pick someone to speak for you in a medical crisis, in case you are not able to speak for yourself, there are several things to think about. Below is a list of suggested items to review or use as a guide when you’re selecting the person you would like to act on your behalf.
- Usually it is best to name one person or agent to serve at a time, with at least one successor, or back-up person, in case the first person is not available when needed.
- The person or people you select will need to meet the legal criteria in your state for acting as agent or proxy or representative?
- You will want to make sure they are willing to speak on your behalf as well as being able to act on your wishes and separate his/her own feelings from yours.
- It is suggested that this person Lives close by or could travel to be at your side if needed.
- Knows you well and understands what’s important to you.
- Is someone you trust with your life?
- Will talk with you now and in the future about sensitive issues and will listen to your wishes.
- Will likely be available long into the future?
- Would be able to handle conflicting opinions between family members, friends, and medical personnel.
- Can be a strong advocate in the face of an unresponsive doctor or institution.
The person you choose to make health care decisions for you is known by different names in different states. This person is sometimes called a health care agent, proxy, representative, attorney-in-fact, surrogate, or even patient advocate. State rules for who may be a health care proxy vary, but the most common groups disqualified are these:
- Anyone under age 18.
- Your health care provider, including the owner or operator of a health or residential or community care facility serving you—unless this person is your spouse or close relative.
- An employee of your health care provider—unless this person is your spouse or close relative.
What you will need to do after selecting a person to act on your behalf.
- Talk to your proxy about the qualifications on the first page of this worksheet.
- Ask permission to name him or her as your decision maker.
- Discuss your health care wishes and values and fears with this person.
- Make sure your decision maker gets a copy of your advance directive and knows where to find the originals.
- Tell family members and close friends whom you picked.
Most people wish to give their agent the broadest authority possible to make all health care decisions when they are no longer able, including those about the use of life-sustaining treatments such as artificial nutrition and hydration. If you do not wish to give such broad authority to the decision maker you have selected, think about what limitations you would impose and describe them as best you can.
Key Question: If you include written instructions in your advance medical directive and there is a conflict between your decisions instruction and your advance directive, which takes priority? You will want to specify My Agents Direction or My advance medical directive.