Choosing an Agent to Make Health Care Decisions

A medical power of attorney allows you to appoint a trusted relative or friend to make medical decisions for you if you are unconscious or otherwise unable to make those decisions for yourself.

Who Can I Appoint As My Agent?

You can choose anyone at least 18 years of age to serve as your agent. A person younger than 18 years who has had the disability of minority removed can also serve.

Although the agent you select does not have to be a family member, many people choose family members because they are most likely to know your wishes and act in your best interest.

Who Can I Not Appoint As My Agent?

Under the Texas statutes you cannot select any of the following as your health care agent:

  • your health care provider (your physician)
  • an employee of your health care provider, unless that person is a relative
  • your residential home care provider (your home health care agency, hospital, nursing home, or residential care home)
  • an employee of your residential home care provider

What Decisions Can My Agent Make?

Your agent’s power not unlimited. The statutes restrict your agent from consenting to voluntary inpatient mental health services, convulsive treatment, psychosurgery, or abortion. Additionally, even after you sign a medical power of attorney, treatment cannot be given to you or withheld from you over your objection.

However, the person you select as your agent in your medical power of attorney will have the power to make a broad range of decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself. These decisions can include consenting or refusing to consent to medical treatment, or withdrawing or withholding life-sustaining treatment.

That’s why it’s important that you select someone who has knowledge of your wishes, including your religious and moral beliefs, and who you trust will act according to your wishes or best interest if the need arises.

Regardless of whom you choose, it is important that your agent be mature, levelheaded, and capable of making medical decisions in your best interest under what could be a very difficult circumstance.

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