How to Choose Your Medical Decision Maker

Choosing Medical Decision Maker

Summary: A medical decision maker will make decisions about your medical care if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself due to injury or sickness. In selecting a medical decision maker, you should choose a person that is 18 years or older, someone you trust to speak and make judgments on your behalf, a person who can quick decisions under pressure, and someone who is well informed about these potential responsibilities.

National Health Care Decisions Week is coming up soon (April 16-22).  The campaign is designed to educate the public about the importance of advance care planning, and empower those who are taking control of their own medical wishes (Source: nadd.org).

In estate planning, one of the health-related items you should address is choosing a medical decision maker.  This individual, also called a “Health Care Agent” or “Power of Attorney for Health Care,” is the person who will make decisions about your medical care if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself due to injury or sickness.  A medical decision maker can look at your medical records, speak with your doctors, and make decisions about any medical testing or treatment.

Selecting a medical decision maker can be a challenge.  Legally, the individual must be 18 years or older.  The person cannot be a current member of your health care team (ex: your doctor, nurse, specialist).  If you are a patient at a health care facility, your medical decision maker cannot be an employee of that facility.  Many people select a parent, sibling, child, spouse, or close friend.  That is perfectly okay, but there are a few additional questions to consider:

  • Do you trust that person to speak on your behalf?
  • Do you trust that person’s judgment on medical issues?
  • Would that person be willing to make decisions on your behalf, even if that decision does not align with his or her own beliefs?
  • Is that person comfortable making quick decisions during uncertain circumstances?
  • Is that person comfortable asking questions, or asking for clarifications?
  • Would that person’s emotional connection to you get in the way of making decisions on your behalf?

Once you have selected your medical decision maker, be sure to discuss with them the responsibilities involved.  The decision maker should be willing to speak for you, and understand all of your wishes related to your health and any medical treatment.  In Georgia, you name your medical decision maker as part of the Advance Directive for Health Care.  (For more information on these documents, see part one and part two of our blog “Navigating the Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care”).  Even if you do not know immediately who you want your medical decision maker to be, it is still a good idea to fill out the Advance Directive and express your wishes regarding medical care.

Now is the perfect time to choose your medical decision maker.  Typically, a person’s parents serve as his or her medical decision maker, from birth until 18 years old.  A spouse will also have some default medical decision-making authority.  Other than that, no one can access a person’s medical records or make medical decisions for them without written permission.  It is recommended that a person select a medical decision maker any time after his or her 18th birthday.  Major life events may also be reminders: extensive traveling, marriage, children, divorce, or being diagnosed with an illness.  It is also okay to change your medical decision maker as these major life events unfold.

If you are interested in completing an Advance Directive for Health Care, or if you have any additional questions about how to choose the best medical decision maker for you, visit Siedentopf Law’s website at EstateLawAtlanta.com or call (404) 736 – 6066.

© Sarah Siedentopf and Siedentopf Law, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Siedentopf Law and EstateLawAtlanta.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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