Choosing a health care representative

On Behalf of | Feb 6, 2022 | Estate Planning

Naming health care representatives may give people peace of mind that, even if they cannot speak or make decisions for themselves, choices relating to their care will get made based on their preferences and values. Without warning, serious illnesses or injuries leave some physically or mentally incapacitated. Consequently, others must make healthcare-related decisions on their behalf.

Appointing someone as a health care proxy gives that person substantial authority. Using care when deciding whether to name a health care agent and choosing who to name may help people make the right decisions for them.

Who can people name as their health care agents?

According to MayoClinic.org, the people appointers name to serve as their health care representatives should meet the state’s requirements, as well as several other criteria. People may choose their spouses, trusted family members, close friends, members of their faith communities or others to make decisions for them if they become incapacitated. Appointers should keep in mind that they generally cannot name their physicians or other members of their medical care teams as their health care proxies.

Do health care proxies and appointers have to agree?

Health care agents do not always share the same values as their appointers. However, in making medical decisions on their behalf, representatives must act in accordance with their care wishes, not their own beliefs. In cases when they have not discussed a specific situation, health care proxies should make their judgments based on what they believe appointers would want given their beliefs and other preferences.

What if a patient does not have a health care representative?

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, state law dictates who has medical decision-making authority for people who suffer incapacitating illness or injury without a named agent or other advance care directive in place. Under such circumstances, life-and-death choices fall to a representative from a priority contact list. Such lists include judicially appointed guardians, spouses, adult children, parents, adult siblings and grandparents.

Implementing tools such as naming a health care agent may help people ensure that, should the unexpected happen, their wishes will get carried out.