When a child approaches his/her 18th birthday and has the ability to decide, it is recommended the young adult choose a health care agent and complete a health care proxy.
An initial conversation about values and life goals should occur at some key times that indicate a young adult is maturing—such as obtaining a driver’s license, turning 18, leaving home to go to school, work or into the military, or marriage. These are major milestones in life when risks and responsibilities for actions may change.
Appointing a health care agent is a good idea for everyone 18 years of age and older. A health care agent can act on your behalf if you become even temporarily unable to make your own medical decisions due to acute illness or injury. This situation might occur if you are under general anesthesia or are in a become coma because of an accident.
When you are able to make your own medical decisions again, your health care agent will no longer be authorized to act and make medical decisions on your behalf.
There are two situations in which a health care agent will be needed:
A parent or guardian makes medical decisions for a seriously ill child, including medical decisions regarding life-sustaining treatment on the MOLST. When a child has the ability to make decisions, the child may participate jointly with the parent or guardian.
When a seriously ill young adult chooses a health care agent at the age of 18, the health care agent makes medical decisions if the young adult loses the ability to make medical decisions. If the seriously ill young adult doesn’t have a health care agent, a surrogate authorized under Family Health Care Decisions Act would have the authority to make medical decisions.
Adolescents, over the age of 16 and younger than age 18, who are married, have a child of their own or are living independently may be considered “emancipated.” In this situation, the adolescent can choose a health care agent and complete a health care proxy form.
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