Choose Your Person
Appointing a Health Care Agent
If you are 18 years of age or older, it is important to appoint a health care agent to speak on your behalf if you are unable to speak for yourself.
A health care agent is:
- Someone you trust.
- Chosen in advance to make decisions on your behalf.
- Willing to ask questions of the health care team and advocate for your wishes.
Benefits of Having an Agent
- Reduces the chance of doubts or disagreements about who you trust to make decisions for you.
- Ensures the people you choose will have access to the medical information necessary to make informed decisions.
- Allows your health care team to share information about your medical condition with the person(s) who are authorized to make treatment decisions consistent with your wishes and values.
- Authorizes your designated person to work with the health care team to figure out what to do when a specific situation arises that you did not foresee.
- If healthcare providers resist following your wishes, your agent will work to see that your wishes are honored.
Choosing an Agent
- Your health care agent should be someone you trust who is willing to ask questions of your healthcare team in order to get the information they need to make an informed decision.
- Your agent will need to advocate on your behalf and may need to be assertive to ensure that your wishes about medical treatments are respected and honored.
- Your agent will need to know as much as possible about your goals, wishes and values concerning medical care and treatment so that they can make decisions in situations you might not have anticipated. So select someone who knows you well or someone who understands your goals, wishes and values. Even if you aren’t sure what kinds of care and treatment you would want, it’s important to have someone you trust making decisions for you.
- Usually people name a close friend or family member as their agent. But don’t assume that the people closest to you will “just know” what you want. The best way to spare an agent from later guilt or uncertainty about a decision he or she may need to make on your behalf is to talk with the agent in advance about your views on quality of life and about treatments that you know you do and do not want in various medical situations.
- Take special care to discuss with your agent your wishes regarding end-of-life medical treatment.
- Not everyone is comfortable with the responsibility of being a health care agent; therefore, it is very important to have an honest discussion with the person you want to appoint before you do so.
- Your health care agent must be 18 years of age or older.
- Your agent should be someone who is readily accessible to talk with your health care providers, either in person or by phone.
Completing the Form
For your form to be legally recognized in Vermont, you must sign in the presence of two witnesses. Once completed:
- Give copies to your agent, your health care provider, your local hospital, and any friends/family you wish.
- Send your document to the Vermont Advance Directive Registry where it can be accessed when needed.
You can change your mind at any time. Just update your document by completing a new form and give the new signed and witnessed copies to your agent, your health care provider, your local hospital, and any friends/family you wish. If your document is registered with the Vermont Advance Directive Registry, you should also send a new copy to them with an Authorization to Change Form.