In addition to creating advance care directives, such as a living will, people may consider naming a health care agent. Should an injury or illness incapacitate them, so they cannot make decisions or communicate their preferences, a health care agent may make medical and end-of-life care decisions on their behalf.
Handing over such a size-able responsibility, people should consider various factors when choosing a health care agent to make sure they select the right person.
Do they meet the state’s requirements?
According to MayoClinic.org, when choosing a health care agent, people may choose just about anyone, provided they meet the state’s requirements. For example, the state may specify that only adults 18-years and older may serve in such a role. People may consider family members, close friends, members of their faith communities or other acquaintances to act as their health care agents. While doctors may serve as health care agents, they cannot also serve as the principals’ treating physicians.
Will they discuss the hard choices?
According to WebMD.com, people should talk about their medical preferences with those they name as their health care agents. For instance, this may include talking about not wanting cardiopulmonary resuscitation in the event their hearts stop or preferring not to have intubation, feeding tubes or other such treatments. Close family members may struggle with such conversations; however, people may benefit from talking about the potentially difficult choices, so their health care agents understand their preferences and beliefs. This may help set them up to make the best decisions on behalf of those who entrusted them with such responsibility.
Asking someone to make medical decisions on their behalf and creating the necessary documents before they need such help may give people peace of mind and ensure their wishes get carried out.