A health care proxy, also known as a “health care surrogate” or “medical power of attorney,” allows you to designate another person, known as an agent or proxy, to legally make health care decisions for you if you can’t do so yourself. It does not grant any powers to the health care agent until you’re actually unable to make or communicate health care decisions.
Typically, couples will name each other as primary health care agent and name another person as a back-up. You have to feel comfortable discussing your health care wishes with them.
You should also look for these six characteristics when choosing your health care agent:
Lives near you
Your agent might need to get to your chosen hospital quickly, so they can get involved in your medical situation as soon as possible.
Is a trustworthy person
Can this person be trusted to make big decisions and follow your wishes?
Has some knowledge of the medical field
It also helps if your agent understands medical processes or at least would be willing to research your condition and learn about it so they can ask doctors the right questions, especially about medical tests and treatment options.
Has the ability to be assertive
Can your agent handle pressure and stand up to other people in an emotionally-charged situation. Even if other family members try to influence your agent, you want to know that your agent will do what you want them to.
Has good communication skills
You want an agent who can communicate clearly with other family members and interact effectively with your medical team. Your agent has to be able to make your wishes clear to everyone, including the medical team.
Can be decisive
Being a health care agent is a demanding responsibility. Important decisions need to be made without second guessing them.