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What health care decisions can my health care agent make?

Unless you limit your health care agent’s authority, your agent will be able to make any health care decision that you could have made if you were able to decide for yourself. Your agent can agree that you should receive treatment, choose among different treatments, and decide that treatments should not be provided (in accordance with your wishes and interests). Your health care agent can interpret your wishes and values as medical circumstances change, and can therefore make decisions in situations you could have never foreseen or specifically planned for. Your health care agent can also make decisions regarding organ and tissue donation.

However, there is one exception. Your agent can only make decisions about artificial nutrition and hydration (nourishment and water provided by feeding tube or intravenous line [tube into a vein]) if they know your wishes from what you have said or what you have written. Therefore, it is important to ensure you discuss your wishes regarding this with your health care agent, and we strongly recommend documenting your wishes (which could be as simply stated as, “My health care agent (and alternate agent [if applicable]) knows my wishes regarding artificial hydration and nutrition.”

Having an open and frank discussion about your wishes with your health care agent will put them in a better position to make decisions for you. This is a major responsibility for the person you appoint as your health care agent, and you should have a discussion with them about what types of treatments you would or would not want under different types of circumstances. Filling out this section of the Health Care Proxy is optional, but we do recommend writing down your wishes somewhere to give direction to your agent.

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