Preparing for the Coronavirus: The #1 Legal Document Every Adult Needs to Have

As the Covid 19 pandemic continues to disrupt daily life and leave Americans uncertain of the future, you don’t have to feel helpless during this pandemic. In fact, now is a great time to be proactive and plan ahead should you or a loved one fall ill. One of the most important and relatively easy things you can do (and should do) is to select a medical agent and set up your advance healthcare directive

What Is a Medical Agent?

A medical agent (also called a healthcare agent, healthcare surrogate, a healthcare proxy, or a medical proxy) is a person you authorize in a medical power of attorney to make decisions about your medical care if you are too ill to make them yourself or are otherwise unable to communicate your wishes. 

Why is it important to choose a medical agent now?

We have all been watching the news and seeing the updates. The curve seems to have flattened, most people have mild symptoms and the number who were critical around early April was about 2.34%. So even if you get sick, you’ll most likely have mild symptoms and recover quickly. However, since no one knows exactly how they will be affected by the virus, it’s best to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Part of that planning is making sure someone can make healthcare decisions for you if you fall ill and are unable to make those decisions for yourself. 

Factors to Consider in Choosing Your Medical Agent

A medical agent is an important role, and the person you choose will have the power to make critical healthcare decisions—like consenting to a treatment plan, whether to accept or refuse medical treatment and which healthcare providers or hospitals to use for your care. As a result, it is crucial to think carefully about who you choose to fill this role. Many people simply assume that their spouse or their oldest child should take on this role, but they are not always the best suited. Here are some factors to consider when selecting an agent:

  1. Emotional maturity. People handle stress differently, and not everyone can set aside their emotions and make level-headed decisions when someone they love is suffering. In addition, some people are simply not assertive enough to act as a strong advocate in the face of differing opinions of other family members–or even health care providers–who suggest a treatment plan you have informed your medical agent you do not want. You should choose someone who can think rationally in emotionally difficult circumstances, even if that means you must look outside of your family to find the best person for the job.
  2. Location. The person you choose to act as your medical agent should be someone who lives close by and can act on your behalf very quickly in the event of a medical emergency or if you need your advocate to serve in that role for an extended time period. In current times, many people might be under a mandatory or recommended stay-at-home order, or may not be available or willing to travel to another city or state.  Consider naming several alternate agents to account for someone’s potential unavailability.