What is an agent?
​An agent is someone you choose to make health care decisions for you if you are incapacitated.  Your agent makes decisions based on what you want for you as long as you are incapable of making an informed decision about health care.  When a physician finds that you are able to make these decisions again, decision making power is returned to you.

Sometimes people ask about picking two people to act as “co-agents.”  You can pick more than one person to be your agent, but think about how that could cause problems.  For example, if you have two agents and they have different opinions on your treatment, whose orders should a doctor follow?  One way to address this problem is by picking a primary and back-up agent (called a “successor” agent).  Your back-up agent would only be asked to make decisions for you if your primary agent is unavailable, unable, or unwilling to make decisions for you.

Good qualities of an agent

  • Someone who is 18 or older
  • Someone you trust
  • Someone who knows you well, including your values and preferences for health care treatment
  • Someone who can be easily reached in an emergency

Duties of an agent

Your agent must...   

Your agent does not have to...  
Follow any instructions that you have written in your AD

Act as your agent if he/she does not want to – agents are allowed to “quit” their role without consequences

Must learn the risks/benefits of proposed treatment (or non-treatment)

Pay for your treatment

NOT make any decision that he/she knows is contrary to your religious beliefs or basic values

Make choices for you based on what he/she believes is in your “best interests,” if no specific instructions are given

For more information on the duties of an agent, click here.

Appointing an Agent