A health care agent is a person selected to make important medical decisions on behalf of another individual when that individuals becomes unable to do so. A health care agent is also referred to as a surrogate, an attorney-in-fact or a health care proxy.
Each state has its own laws regarding the type of decisions a health care agent can make. Generally, a health care agent can refuse or agree to certain medical treatment and can withdraw treatment as well. A living will provides the outline for which the health care agent can act, and the health care agent can also use information provided to him by the individual who appointed the agent when making decisions. A health care agent can consent to surgery and request that the individual he's working for be taken off life support.
People should choose someone they trust as their health care agents. The agent must be willing to make difficult decisions. A discussion of the person's fears, values, desires and preferences in regard to his medical care is helpful with the appointed agent, as the more the agent knows about the person's wishes, the more likely he'll make a decision that is representative of the patient's wishes.