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Health Care Agent & Guardianship

When you make medical decisions for someone else, you are acting as a health care proxy — which is the general term used for a person who makes decisions for someone else.

There are three kinds of health care proxies:

  1. Health care agent. Your relative or friend has signed a legal document called an advance directive naming you to make health care decisions for him or her in case something happens. Some people call this a durable power of attorney for health care. If you are named in an advance directive to make medical decisions for someone else, you are a health care agent.
  2. Surrogate. Even when nobody has formally named you as a health care agent, you may still be asked informally to make medical decisions for someone else. Family members or close friends are often the ones who are most familiar with the patient’s wishes and values. This type of proxy is known as a surrogate.
  3. Guardian. A court may appoint you as a medical guardian and specifically authorize you to make health care decisions for someone else. A guardian is directly answerable to the appointing court.

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