Health Care Power of Attorney: A Quick Guide To Acting As A Medical Agent

A medical agent is someone you choose to make medical decisions for you if you're unable to. Choosing your agent is an important decision, and you should think carefully about who you want to assume this responsibility.
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Here's a quick guide to learn about the responsibilities of being a medical agent under a health care power of attorney.

Getting Started As A Medical Agent

What is a medical agent?

A medical agent is someone granted the right to make medical decisions on a patients behalf during a medical emergency.

What is a health care power of attorney?

A health care power of attorney, also known as a health care proxy, allows you to grant someone the right to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make or communicate decisions about your healthcare.

What are my responsibilities as a medical agent?

In short, you will be in charge of communicating the patient's pre-discussed medical wishes and making health care decisions in the event they are incapable of speaking for themselves due to poor health.

When do my duties become effective?

When a doctor determines that the individual is no longer able to make decisions on their own.

Managing Someone's Medical Care

As a medical agent, you be in charge of making the following types of decisions:

  • Life support options
  • Pain management and medication
  • Whether the patient will receive certain medical treatments, surgeries, or other procedures
  • Relocating the patient to another hospital or medical center if needed
  • Honoring and communicating the medical wishes of the patient 

Aside from making decisions on their behalf, you're going to have to communicate with everyone involved.

  • Understand the patient's medical condition and available treatment options
  • Being the key point of communication for doctors and healthcare providers
  • Reviewing the person's health information
  • Communicating with family members and loved ones

It's Best To Be Prepared

You should always act in the best interest of the patient. This means you will need to know their decisions, beliefs, and medical wishes ahead of time. Request and review the person's medical history and living will.

  • Are there any ongoing medical issues, such as chronic conditions?
  • Have they had any major surgeries in the last 15 years?
  • Do they have any allergies?
  • Are they currently taking any medicines or receiving any medical treatments?
  • Understand the reasons for these treatments, if any.
  • Honor the medical wishes written in their living will.
  • If possible, sit down with them to discuss their personal preferences.

If Something Ever Happens

As soon as your role as a medical agent goes into effect:

  • Find out where they are being treated.
  • If travel is required, and you're not able to make it, then get on a call with the necessary doctors or medical care teams.
  • Ask doctors about their medical situation and all pertinent details.
  • Communicate the situation with the patient's loved ones.

What To Consider When Making Choices

Learn about the medical situation and all necessary details.

  • What's the condition of the patient?
  • Are there any available treatments? If so, are they necessary?
  • What does the outcome look like with or without the treatments?
  • What are their symptoms?
  • How are they currently being treated?
  • Does this treatment align with their personal medical wishes?
  • Is the doctor specialized in treating this condition?
  • What does this process look like?

Learn about the available treatment options.

  • What is the goal of this treatment?
  • What is the likelihood that this treatment will be successful? 
  • Does this align with the person's health preferences?
  • How will the treatment affect the person's quality of life?
  • What would the person want me to do in this situation?

As the medical agent, you have the right to make decisions on your own. However, you may want to include the patient's loved ones in the decision making process. Ultimately, they selected you to make important decisions on their behalf, so if opinions about how the patient should be treated are conflicting, then make a choice based on what you feel they would have wanted.


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