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Your Health Care Agent: How to Choose Someone - 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.

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You may choose:

  • Your partner.
  • A child or grandchild.
  • Another family member.
  • A close friend.
  • 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 so.

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 who:

  • Is at least 18 years old.
  • Knows you well and understands what makes life meaningful for you.
  • Understands your religious and moral values.
  • Will honor your wishes and do what you want, not what he or she wants.
  • Will be able to make difficult choices at a stressful time.
  • 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 decisions.
  • Lives near you or is willing and able to travel if needed to make decisions for you.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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