It can be uncomfortable to think about aging, but we need to do so at some point. Unfortunately, old age can incapacitate us, and we will need someone to take care of us if we reach that stage. That is why powers of attorney exist.
One type of power of attorney is the health care power of attorney, with which we can choose a person (agent) that will make our medical decisions on our behalf. Appointing someone as a health care agent is delicate. Because of that, you need to consider certain things before naming one.
The duties of a health care agent
Your health care agent will take care of all aspects of your personal care and medical treatment. Every decision they make will be according to your wishes and best interests. The specific duties of your health care agent will be:
- To notify your health care provider of the agency
- To talk to physicians and health care providers about your condition
- To see your medical records and approve who can see them
- To give permission for medical tests, surgery and other treatments
- To choose where you receive care and the physicians that will provide it
- To accept, withdraw or deny treatment
- To agree or decline to donate your organs or whole body
- To decide what to do with your remains after your death
- To talk to your loved ones to make a final decision
You must note that your health care agent has the right to decline or stop medical treatment, even when that may lead to your death. The agents would make these decisions if you are suffering and there is no solution to your pain.
Who can I choose as my health care agent?
You can pick any family member or friend as your health care agent as long as they are over 18 years old. The person you chose must know you well and be willing to carry out your wishes even if they don’t agree. Your agent should know your answers to the following questions:
- How important to you is to avoid pain or suffering?
- Is it more important to you to live as long as possible or to avoid suffering and disability?
- Do you want to be at home or in the hospital for the last years of your life?
- Do you have religious, spiritual or cultural beliefs?
- Do you want to contribute to medical science through organ donation?
Your health care agent must also be someone that feels comfortable talking to doctors and won’t get upset to carry out your wishes if you became very sick.
When agents change
You can revoke the agency at any time. You will be able to do this by written or oral expression, no matter your physical or mental condition. Also, you may appoint a successor agent in case the agent you choose dies or becomes incapacitated.
The benefits of choosing an agent
When someone doesn’t choose an agent, and becomes incapacitated, their physician will ask a family member to make the decisions for them. However, this can be a risk because family members may not make the decisions as you would want them to. Ultimately, it will be better if you decide who you want as your agent. That way, you will get assurance that your wishes will be respected.