Choosing a Healthcare Agent

Many people think that their family members know what they would want if they were too sick or injured to make their own choices, but research shows that most do not. This is why talking with the people closest to you, while you are well, is so important.

When you choose someone to speak for you and name that person on an Advance Directive, he or she is called a Healthcare Agent. You should choose someone who will:

  • Understand the choices that you would make for yourself
  • Honor your choices, even if they disagree
  • Be available to talk with doctors and others on the health care team

If you do not name your own Healthcare Agent on an Advance Directive, Virginia law directs physicians to work with your next of kin. If the person that you trust most is not your next of kin, it is especially important to name that person on an Advance Directive.

Jane's Story
Jane's oldest son Tom was always the most dependable. When her husband died, Tom settled all of his business affairs and since then has made sure that Jane had everything she needed. But when she thought about her own wishes for end-of-life care, she remembered that her son had a very hard time letting his father go. She told him that she loved him very much, and didn't want to put him in that position again, so she named her daughter on her Advance Directive as the person who would take care of medical decisions. Jane told both of her children what she wanted and gave them copies of her Advance Directive.

 

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