Step 3: Choose a substitute decision-maker

Step 3: Choose a substitute decision-maker

Be ready: choose someone you trust.

If you lose the ability to make your own decisions, your substitute decision-maker can make treatment and care decisions on your behalf.

When picking a substitute decision-maker, they should be:

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

When you invite someone to be your substitute-decision maker, talk to them about what's most important to you and what you do and do not want. Your views might change, so make sure to have an ongoing conversation about your preferences with that person throughout your life.

Remember: your substitute decision-maker will only be called upon if you are no longer able to make or communicate your care preferences. If that happens, your substitute-decision maker will do their best to make choices on your behalf, according to the values and preferences you discussed with them earlier. They will try to make the decision they believe you would make if you could do so.

You can complete a document to legally appoint your chosen person. This will make it easier for them. Depending on your state/territory, you may be able to appoint more than one substitute decision-maker. You can give them the power to act alone or together in making decisions.

Depending on where you live, a substitute decision-maker will be called:

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

After you've chosen someone you trust, the next step is to put your plan on paper.


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