Navigate Up

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 would you most trust with your life? And, who would most likely be able to carry out your health care wishes?

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.

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

Contact Us

200 Lothrop St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-2582
412-647-UPMC (8762)
1-800-533-UPMC (8762)

Submit a question or comment online about your visit to a UPMC facility.

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).

UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences | Supplemental content provided by Healthwise, Incorporated. To learn more, visit

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

Pittsburgh, PA, USA |