FAQ: Healthcare Agent

 

What is a healthcare agent?

A healthcare agent is a person you name in your advance medical directive to make medical treatment decisions for you if you ever become too sick or injured to make or communicate those decisions for yourself, or if a court ever declares you to be incompetent.

Do I have to choose a healthcare agent?

Nothing says you have to choose a healthcare agent, but it’s one of the most important things you can do to make sure doctors know your medical treatment wishes if you can’t make or communicate medical treatment decisions yourself, or if a court declares you to be incompetent.

Who can be my healthcare agent?

In most cases, your healthcare agent can be anyone that the law in your country or state considers to be an adult, but with these exceptions:

  • Your healthcare agent can’t be your treating doctor or his or her staff (to prevent potential conflicts of interest, some countries and states say no medical treatment providers can be healthcare agents).
  • Your healthcare agent can’t be the owner/operator or employees of the medical facility, nursing home, or hospice where you’re being treated unless you’re related by blood, marriage, or adoption.

Before you choose your healthcare agent, it’s important to think about a couple of things:

  • Can this person be at the hospital to assess the situation firsthand and talk with your doctors?
  • Can this person handle the pressure of potentially very hard decisions during a time of great stress?

You should speak with the person you’re considering to be your healthcare agent to make sure he or she is comfortable with the responsibility. You also need to talk about your advance medical directive and your thoughts about quality of life so that he or she will know how you’d like medical treatment decisions made on your behalf.