How to Choose a Health Care Proxy

The person you appoint as your health care power of attorney should be able to powerfully advocate for you if you should become unable to advocate for yourself. This is a very important role, so spend some time thinking about who in your life might be able to best advocate for you.

Qualities of a health care power of attorney

Your health care power of attorney should be a person with the following characteristics:

  • An understanding of your health condition, symptoms, and possibly your medical history
  • An understanding of how you wish to be treated and the treatments you’d like to receive and not receive
  • Attention to detail 
  • An understanding of his or her duties, and a commitment to taking those duties seriously
  • Good communication skills

In addition, your health care power of attorney should be someone you trust, who you believe understands your values and will do his or her best to act in your best interest.

Choosing the right person to serve as your health care power of attorney

If you’re considering naming someone as your health care power of attorney but aren’t sure if he or she is the right person, it might be helpful to have a conversation about the duties and responsibilities of the position, as well as your health care wishes for the future. This may help to determine if the person you’re considering appointing understands your health care wishes, would feel comfortable advocating on behalf of you and your wishes, and would be the right person for the job.

To learn more about the responsibilities of a heath care power of attorney, see our article Naming a Health Care Power of Attorney.

How to name a health care power of attorney

Every state has its own health care power of attorney form, though it may go by a different name, such as proxy, agent, representative, or surrogate. In some states, the form for naming a health care power of attorney is combined with the living will form. You can download your state's form from our directory of State-by-State Advance Directive Forms and indicate on the form the person who you would like to name as your health care power of attorney. Once you've completed the form, you need to have two witnesses countersign the document. The witnesses may be anyone over the age of 18 who is not the person you're naming as your health care power of attorney.

Communicating with your health care power of attorney

Once you've chosen someone to be your health care power of attorney, you'll want to let that person know about your decision. Most people don't know what being a health care power of attorney entails, but it's important to your future care that the person you've named knows what he or she is going to be responsible for. We suggest that you send him or her to read our article How to Be a Good Health Care Power of Attorney, which has all the information the person will need to understand his or her new role.

After you've named your health care power of attorney, send him or her to our article How to Be a Good Health Care Power of Attorney.

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