A Designation of Health Care Surrogate also called a Health Care Power of Attorney, a Health Care Proxy or Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, gives legal authority to another person (a surrogate or agent) to make decisions about your health care if you are unable to make them yourself. This prevents the courts from getting involved if there is a disagreement between family members and/or the medical community as to what actions you would want taken.
Keep in mind that you will continue to make decisions about your care for as long as you are able. Nevertheless, your surrogate/agent can step in and act for you when you cannot. This document can be valuable even for short periods of time, such as if you are recovering from surgery.
However, this document is often associated with end-of-life decisions. The person you name as your surrogate or agent may make decisions that may extend your life for as long as possible or decisions that may bring your earthly life to an end. These decisions may include whether or not you should have surgery if life support should be initiated, and/or if nutrition should be stopped. The legal document includes your wishes on these and other end-of-life issues so there are no questions when the time comes.
This is a difficult subject for some people to even think about, but it is important that you do, and that you discuss these matters with your physician, family members, and friends. The more people who know about your preferences, the easier it will be for your surrogate/agent to carry out your wishes. If you change your mind over time, let others (especially your surrogate/agent) know.
Whom should you name as your surrogate/agent? Here are some considerations:
- Most people name a family member, but you can also name a trusted friend.
- It should be someone who knows you well, respects your wishes, and will follow your instructions.
- It might bring you some comfort if this person shares your values about faith, life, and death.
- You can list your surrogate(s) / agent(s) in a variety of ways. You can allow them to act independently, together, or one as backup for the other.
- Consider your candidates’ personalities and emotional make-ups, and whether they would be able to handle the responsibility.
If you have been asked to be someone’s surrogate / agent, consider carefully if you would be able to follow his or her wishes when that time comes. Most people consider it an honor to be asked, knowing this person has chosen them to have his or her life in their hands, but you don’t need to walk this journey alone. Contact us to learn more about this important responsibility. Our attorneys will ensure that your loved one’s wishes are in order long before you need to concern yourself with thinking through the details of making significant decisions.