Who Should Be My Health Care Surrogate?
“I can't decide which of my two children should be my Health Care Surrogate to make medical decisions for me if I am unable make them. Should I just name them both?”
This client can name both of his or her children. But the crucial question is who would be the best Surrogate. And that answer should prevail over competing wishes such as trying to be fair by naming both children and/or to avoid hurting feelings.
Please keep in mind that the surrogate(s) may be making critical health decisions that may impact your life. If you could travel to the future and envision yourself in such a vulnerable position, would you be worried about your children’s feelings? Or would you be more concerned about naming the absolute best person to make such important decisions?
Think about which child is better suited to the responsibilities. For health-care decision-making, your agent should ideally be calm in stressful situations and be able to advocate courteously but firmly with doctors and nurses for the treatment you want.
What if your Health Care Surrogate does not live nearby? If you can be completely confident that the Surrogate would get on the first flight to be immediately by your side when you need him or her most, then that designation is a solid choice. And it goes without saying that you should avoid naming someone terrified of things like needles, blood, hospitals, etc.
In addition, you want to name someone that will be your champion advocate, who is willing to chase down a doctor when you are suffering, and that can stay relatively calm in stressed situations. Moreover, you will want to name a Surrogate that will honor your end of life wishes that are expressed in your Living Will.
Of course, communication is imperative. You do not your Surrogate to be surprised when called to act, to not know where the Health Care Surrogate document is, or how you wish to be treated. While not always a fun conversation, your personal wishes should be discussed with your Surrogate so that he or she is an informed advocate.
If you do not have a Health Care Surrogate document, I encourage you to contact an Estate Planning or Elder Law Attorney (preferably one that is board certified) to assist you in placing such affairs in order.
Jason A. Penrod is only the 20th attorney to be Board Certified as an Elder Law Expert by the Florida Bar and the National Elder Law Foundation. He is the founder of Family Elder Law (www.familyelderlaw.com) which has offices in Lakeland, Lake Wales, and Sebring, Florida