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TOOLS & RESOURCES > Choosing an Agent

Role of a Healthcare Agent

An agent that you select has the authority to make any and all decisions you would make if
you were able, including:

  • choosing your doctor or other healthcare provider and where you will receive your care

  • speaking with your healthcare team about your condition and treatment options

  • reviewing your medical record and authorizing its release when needed

  • accepting or refusing medical treatments, including artificial nutrition and hydration and CPR

  • consenting to tissue and organ donation, authorizing an autopsy and arranging for

  • disposition of the remains after death

  • You should instruct your agent on these matters so he/she knows how to decide for you.

  • The more you tell your agent, the better he/she will be able to make decisions on your behalf.

Selecting Your Agent

In choosing an agent, consider if he/she:

  • is legally able to serve as your agent (must be 18 years old; may not be a healthcare provider or her/his employee, unless this person is your spouse or close relative)

  • will be available when needed

  •  is willing to speak on your behalf

  • knows you well and understands your values and beliefs

  • will be comfortable asking questions of your healthcare team, particularly related to issues such as treatment options

  • will do his/her best to make the healthcare decisions that you would make (whether or not he/she agrees with you)

  • will be able to "stand up" for you, be your advocate and handle conflict with others who might disagree with your wishes

  • could make difficult decisions under stress

Additional Information
  • It is helpful to select at least one alternate agent, since your primary agent may be unreachable or unavailable (eg., involved in a car accident with you).

  • Talk with your agent about your wishes and give her/him a copy of your advance directive.

  • To avoid confusion, tell your loved ones whom you selected as your agent(s).

  • If circumstances change, you may select a new agent at any time. Make sure to give your new agent a copy of the revised advance directive, and tell family and friends of the change.