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How to Choose a Health Care Agent

While it's important to consider your values during the advance care planning process, it's just as important to spend time thinking about who you would choose to be your health care agent, who has durable medical power of attorney.

A health care agent is someone you choose to make medical decisions on your behalf if you're too sick to make them yourself.

Who Should I Choose as My Health Care Agent?

You may choose your spouse or your children. Or, you can choose a friend or neighbor.

Think about the people that mean the most to you. Who do you trust to tell the doctors about what is most important and what you would want to avoid if you become too sick to tell them yourself?

Who do you know that can:

  • Follow your medical wishes — whether or not they agree with them?
  • Make your wishes heard?
  • Make sure you get the care you want, in the place you want, and with the people you want by your side?

If You Do Not Choose a Health Care Agent

If you do not choose a health care agent and you become unable to make your own decisions, Pennsylvania law will choose one for you. The best person to make your health care decisions may not be the person that the Pennsylvania law would appoint.

So, please take the time to name a health care agent in advance. Ask them if they would be willing to do this for you, and tell them your wishes.

The Pennsylvania Advance Health Care Directive Form (PDF) can help you to think about your health care agent and your medical wishes.

Advance Care Planning Resources

From our Health Library

Contact Us

For more information, or to talk with someone about advance care planning, contact the UPMC Palliative and Supportive Institute at:


Download the PDF about advance medical planning (link opens a new window). 

For more information about advance directives, download Pennsylvania Advance Health Care Directive (PDF).​


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