Skip to content

Information and Resources

Font Size
A
A
A

Questions & Answers: Advance Directives and End of Life Decisions

Appointing a Healthcare Agent Who can serve as my agent?

Your agent can be almost any adult whom you trust to make healthcare decisions for you. He or she can be a close family member or a good friend who is willing to assume the responsibility to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.

The important thing when appointing an agent is to make sure he or she understands your wishes about the use of medical treatment and is willing to respect them and to be assertive if necessary. Not everyone is comfortable making these types of decisions, and your agent might have to be persistent to ensure that your wishes are honored. Therefore, it is essential that you talk with the person before making the appointment, even if you plan to name your spouse, your adult child or another family member.

Recommended Related to Mind, Body, Spirit

Cloris Leachman's Latest Chapter

The winner of nine Emmy Awards and one Academy Award, actress and comedienne Cloris Leachman has charmed American audiences for more than 60 years. This past year, she pushed her creative powers even further when she both competed as the oldest contestant on Dancing with the Stars and published her autobiography: Cloris. When WebMD Magazine caught up with her in the spring of 2009, she had just finished a film role, too. How does an 82-year-old find the time and energy to do all that? Read on to...

Read the Cloris Leachman's Latest Chapter article > >

Who cannot serve as my agent?

Under most state laws, your attending physician cannot treat you and act as your agent at the same time. In some states your agent cannot be any healthcare worker caring for you in a medical facility unless the person also is a family member.

Can I appoint more than one agent?

You should not (and in many states you may not) appoint more than one person to act as your agent at the same time, because conflicts and confusion can arise. The result could be that no decision is reached or that court intervention becomes necessary.

Parents sometimes wish to appoint all of their adult children to act together as the agent, to avoid "playing favorites." Instead, you could ask your children to decide among themselves who could be the agent.

Practical considerations such as location often make the answer obvious. Sometimes one adult child is more willing to take on the role than another.

You can appoint one or more alternate agents. If the first person you named is unwilling or unable to serve-for example, if he or she is ill then the next one is called upon to act as your alternate agent, and so on down the list of people you name as alternates.

Remember, in some states, appointing more than one person at a time can make the appointment invalid.

WebMD Medical Reference from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

sore foot
3 warning signs.
acupuncture needle on shoulder
10 tips to look and feel good.
Epinephrine Injection using Auto-Injector Syringe
Life-threatening triggers.
disciplining a boy
Types, symptoms, causes.
psoriasis
What it looks like.
checking blood sugar
Symptoms and treatment.
man behind computer screen
10 possible causes.
Woman with itchy watery eyes
Common triggers.
man screaming
Making sense of symptoms.
human liver
What puts you at risk?
caregiver with parent
10 tips for daily life.
two male hands
Understanding RA.

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.