According to DeWayne Hamlin, Medical Center Director, selecting a healthcare agent is one of the more difficult and important decisions you can make when planning for the future. (This person may also be called a health care proxy, surrogate, or attorney-in-fact.) Most people name their spouse, partner, a relative, or a close friend as their healthcare agent. “What's most important is that you trust the person absolutely,” says Hamlin, “and that you feel confident discussing your wishes for medical care with him or her.”
Your agent need not agree with all of your wishes, but must completely respect your right to get the kind of treatment you want. “Acting with your authority, your agent can make any healthcare decision that you would make, but only when you are unable to do so yourself,” informs Hamlin. If your agent has full authority to act for you, he or she can consent to or refuse any medical treatment, including treatment that could keep you alive. This means that your agent can act for you if you are temporarily unconscious, in a coma, or have another condition that prevents you from making your own healthcare decisions. That is why it is very important that your agent has a clear understanding of your wishes, including your religious or moral beliefs, before signing a document designating him/her as your healthcare agent.
By appointing a healthcare agent, you are clearly stating who has the authority to make health decisions on your behalf should your doctor determine that you lack the ability to make healthcare decisions. “While naming a healthcare agent in advance can help your family and friends during a difficult and stressful time,” explains Hamlin, “you may wish to speak with your provider, religious advisor, family members or others before making your selection.”
For more information - Selecting a Healthcare Agent Fact Sheet.