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An Agent’s Role for Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

It’s impossible to know which medical treatment choices you might face in the future. What if you aren't able to make these decisions for yourself? A durable power of attorney for healthcare lets you name an agent to speak and carry out your wishes on your behalf. This happens only if you can’t express your wishes yourself. An agent may also be known as a healthcare proxy, representative, or surrogate.

Two women looking at paperwork together.

An agent’s duty

Your agent respects your wishes in the following ways: 

  • Your agent’s duty is to see that your wishes are followed.

  • If your wishes aren’t known, your agent should try to decide what you want.

  • Your agent’s choices come before anyone else’s wishes for you.

  • A durable power of attorney for healthcare does not give your agent control over your money . Your agent also can’t be made to pay your bills.

Find out what your agent can do

Restrictions on what an agent can and can’t do vary by state. Check your state laws. In most states your agent can:

  • Choose or refuse life-sustaining and other medical treatment on your behalf

  • Consent to treatment, and then stop treatment if your condition doesn’t improve

  • Access and release your medical records

  • Request an autopsy and donate your organs, unless you’ve stated otherwise in your advance directive

Find out whether your state allows your agent to do the following:

  • Refuse or withdraw life-enhancing care

  • Refuse or stop tube feeding or other life-sustaining care—even if you haven’t stated on your advance directive that you don’t want these treatments

  • Order sterilization or abortion

Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2023
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