Selecting a Healthcare Agent

Selecting a Healthcare Agent (500)A medical power of attorney is a special type of advance directive that goes further than a living will in the United States. A living will only dictates the kind of end-of-life care that the testator would or would not want to receive in the event of incapacitation. On the other hand, a medical power of attorney actually hands over the entire medical decision-making process to another party.

A medical power of attorney is also sometimes referred to as the durable power of attorney for healthcare or as a healthcare proxy. It is a written document handing over the power to make all medical decisions on behalf of the guarantor to someone else. The individual who receives the medical power of attorney is referred to as the healthcare agent or the healthcare attorney-in-fact. The document simply states that if the guarantor ever becomes seriously sick or mentally impaired then the healthcare agent has the power to make all medical decisions on behalf of the guarantor.

Some of the main medical decisions that a healthcare agent would typically have to make on behalf of the guarantor include the following:

  • Deciding whether or not to put the guarantor on life support
  • Deciding whether or not to resuscitate the guarantor
  • Deciding the physician to attend to the guarantor
  • Deciding when to take the guarantor off life support

Going by the above discussions, it is easy to see just how important the healthcare agent is to the life of the guarantor. He or she could one day be the one who finally decides whether you live or die, literally. As such, you can see why it is vital to take extra care when it comes to selecting your healthcare agent. To help you with that, here is a brief discussion of some of the most important factors to consider when selecting a healthcare agent:

  • Trust- ask yourself; how much do you trust the person? Would you be willing to literally put your life in his or her hands? Be very careful about the last question in particular because one day you might have to do just that. Ensure you choose someone you completely trust and someone you know will always have your best interests at heart.
  • Capability- is the healthcare agent capable of making the right decisions on your behalf? Although the healthcare agent’s intentions may be sincere, he or she might not make the right decision for you without comprehending the medical procedures in question. Plus you should choose someone who understands you and who can make a good guess of what you would want to be done.
  • Availability- will the healthcare agent always be available when needed? This point is very important since you never know when you might be rendered incapacitated and need the services of your healthcare agent.

Above all things, it is important to have prior discussions with your preferred healthcare agent before appointing him or her. Never appoint anyone as a healthcare agent without prior discussion and consent on the matter.

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