Can I appoint more than one person to be my health care agent?
In many states you may not appoint more than one person to act as your agent
at the same time. Unnecessary conflict and confusion may result when one person
does not have clear decision making authority. The medical providers also can
communicate more effectively when they know that there is one person clearly
designated to receive information and make decisions. You can appoint an
alternate agent in case the primary agent is unavailable or unable to serve.
You can ask your agent to share informationand consult with other family
members if you wish.
Parents sometimes want to appoint all of their adult children to act
together as the agent to avoid "playing favorites." If you do not want
to make this choice alone, you could ask your children to decide among
themselves who should be the primary agent. Practical considerations such as
location often make the decision obvious; sometimes one child is more willing
to take on this role or is more comfortable dealing with medical personnel than
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Every state now has some legal document to use when appointing a health care
agent. Forms are available from a variety of sources that may include your
local hospital, department of aging, or department of health.
The documents are not difficult to complete, read the instructions carefully
and follow the required witnessing procedure. You do not need a lawyer to
complete the documents.
Give copies of your completed document to your agent, alternate agent,
physician, and anyone else who may be involved with your health care. Keep the
original in a safe but accessible place. DO NOT KEEP YOUR ADVANCE DIRECTIVES IN
A SAFE DEPOSIT BOX. Other people may need access to them. If you wish to change
the person you have appointed, you must prepare a new document and be sure to
notify and send copies of the new document to all involved. You can change or
revoke your appointment at any time.
Are there limits to the decisions my agent can make?
Yes. Your health care agent cannot make financial decisions or manage your
property unless you have provided that authority by other legal means. You can
also limit your agent's authority by putting restrictions in your document. In
a few states an agent can make decisions based only on what the patient has
stated explicitly in the appointment document or living will. You should
carefully check the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
instructions for your state documents and the documents themselves to see what
WebMD Medical Reference from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization