Topic Overview

Even if your family is involved in helping you make medical treatment
decisions, it is still important to choose one person to be your
health care agent. If you want one family member to be
able to make medical treatment decisions for you, appoint that person as your
agent. Your family’s right to make decisions for you may be limited unless you
have legally appointed a health care agent.

Most states allow you to choose only one person at a time to be your
health care agent. Typically, your doctor cannot be your health care agent. In
some states, a person who works at the health care facility where you might be
treated may not be your agent, unless you are related to the person by blood or
by marriage.

You may choose:

  • Your partner.
  • A
    child or grandchild.
  • Another family member.
  • A close
  • An attorney.

If your state allows, choose one or two alternate agents who can
fill the role if your primary agent is not available or is not able to do

Choosing your health care agent is an important decision. Not
everyone will be comfortable taking on this responsibility, so talk openly with
the person you choose before completing the process. Consider choosing someone

  • Is at least 18 years old.
  • Knows you
    well and understands what makes life meaningful for
  • Understands your religious and moral values.
  • Will
    honor your wishes and do what you want, not what he or she
  • Will be able to make difficult choices at a stressful
  • Will be able to refuse or stop treatment, if that is what you
    would want, even if it may result in your death.
  • Will be assertive
    with health professionals if needed.
  • Will be able to ask questions
    of doctors and others to get the information needed to make
  • Lives near you or is willing and able to travel if
    needed to make decisions for you.

Related Information


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD – Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Jean S. Kutner, MD, MSPH – Geriatric Medicine,
Robin L. Fainsinger, MBChB, LMCC, CCFP – Palliative Medicine

Current as ofOctober 6, 2017