Step 3: Explore substitute decision-makers

Step 3: Explore substitute decision-makers

Be ready: who will be their voice?

If a person loses the ability to make their own decisions, the substitute decision-maker can make treatment decisions on the person's behalf.

You should encourage the person to choose a substitute decision-maker. The substitute decision-maker should be:

  • someone they trust
  • someone who will listen carefully to their wishes and values
  • available (ideally living in the same city or region)
  • over the age of 18
  • prepared to communicate clearly and confidently on their behalf when talking to doctors, other health professionals and family members

The person will have to talk to their substitute decision-maker about their goals, values and what healthcare treatments they would or would not want. The substitute decision-maker should understand the responsibility and be confident in knowing what the person would want.

The substitute decision-maker will only be called upon if the person is no longer able to communicate their healthcare wishes or make their own medical decisions.

A person can complete a document to legally appoint your chosen person. Depending on your state/territory, a person may be able to appoint more than one substitute decision-maker.

Depending on where you live, a substitute decision-maker may also be referred to as:

  • an enduring guardian
  • a medical enduring power of attorney
  • an agent
  • a decision-maker

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