You aren't always going to be able to make medical decisions for yourself. You may be injured or ill to the point where you can't articulate your wishes to your medical care providers. That's why an advance medical directive is so important. It names some one else, and gives them the authority to make those decisions for you. But . . .

Who Can Serve as a Medical Agent?

As with the agent for your Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA), your medical proxy must be a competent adult. Most people choose a spouse or an adult child or sibling, but a trusted close friend can be an excellent choice.

If you have named an individual as your agent for financial decisions in a DPOA, you may want him or her to also serve as your health care proxy. You shouldn’t name your doctors or any other health care providers or their employees or of the hospital or other facilities at which you receive care.

Qualities to Look for in an Agent

But how do you choose the right person? What qualities should you look for? Well, here are some points to ponder.

  • You should name a person with whom you can comfortably discuss your wishes for medical care and end of life treatment. This should be a person who is willing and able to listen to you, capable of understanding your wishes, and most importantly, capable and comfortable with carrying them out. Having a frank discussion with your proxy (and with your doctor) is the most important thing you can do to ensure your wishes will be followed.
  • You want to name a person whom you trust to carry out your instructions.
  • You should name a person who is nearby, if possible, and will be readily available to discuss your needs with your health care providers.
  • You want to choose someone assertive. You want someone who can articulate your wishes to health care providers and firmly insist they be carried out in the face of possible resistance from health care providers and family members.

So What Should I Do?

I recommend that everyone have an estate plan that includes an advance medical directive. If you want more information about them, what other documents are included, and things you need to think about to prepare them, then I recommend that you download my free book, A Guide to Creating Your Estate Plan. It will get you a long way towards achieving that goal.

But if you live in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem, or Cumberland counties, have decided that you need to put together an estate plan, and are ready to move forward to create one, then just click here to schedule a free, no obligation phone call to get things started.

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Steven J. Richardson
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Bankruptcy, Collections, Student Loan, DUI and Traffic Court attorney in Woodbury, NJ.