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What should you look for in a health care agent?

A health care agent in Virginia can go by many different names: proxy, surrogate or attorney-in-fact. Whatever the appellation, however, the purpose of a health care agent is to uphold your wishes for the medical treatment you want to receive in the event of your incapacitation, as well as to make decisions for you should circumstances arise for which your living will does not provide specific instructions. According to FindLaw, you should consider certain factors carefully when selecting your health care agent.

You should avoid naming a doctor, nurse or hospital as your health care agent. Though it may seem to make sense to you, it places the medical professional in a difficult position by creating a potential conflict of interest, and the law may not allow for it for this reason. This can cause problems if you have a close family member whom you would like to serve as your agent who happens to be a doctor. Even if he or she is not your treating physician, it is better to avoid any potential legal entanglements by choosing someone else as your health care agent. 

When choosing a health care agent, consider whether he or she is likely to outlive you. Admittedly, this can be difficult to gauge, but if your intended agent is considerably older than you (i.e., a parent) or has a known illness or medical condition that could cause premature death, it is better to choose someone younger and healthier, if possible. 

Because your health care agent will be your voice if you are unable to speak for yourself, going to court for you if need be, he or she must be assertive enough to stand up to pressure from doctors, friends or family members. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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