A durable power of attorney for health care is a legal document naming a healthcare proxy, someone to make medical decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself. Your proxy, also known as a surrogate or agent, should therefore be familiar with your values and wishes. This means that he or she will be able to decide as you would when treatment decisions need to be made. A proxy can be chosen in addition to or instead of a living will*. Having a healthcare proxy helps you plan for situations that cannot be foreseen, like an accident.
Notice that a durable power of attorney for health care enables you to be more specific about your medical treatment than a living will.
Some people are reluctant to put specific health decisions in writing. For them, naming a healthcare agent might be a good approach, especially if there is someone they feel comfortable talking to about their values and preferences. That is why once you decide to choose a proxy, think about someone who shares your views and values about life and medical decisions. Note that your proxy doesn’t need to be a family member or a friend, but it definitively needs to be someone you absolutely trust.
* A living will is a written document that helps you tell doctors how you want to be treated if you are dying or permanently unconscious and cannot make decisions about emergency treatment. In a living will, you can say which of the available procedures you would want, which ones you wouldn’t want, and under which conditions each of your choices applies.