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When a person names an agent under an Advance Medical Directive it is important that they discuss their religious values, beliefs or preferences related to their medical care with their agent. Remember that an agent only has authority to act on behalf of a patient when it is determined that the patient is incapable of making an informed decision.

When an agent acts on behalf of the patient, the agent has the duty to base the agent’s decisions on the beliefs, values, and preferences of the patient, to the extent possible. That’s why having that conversation with the agent prior to your incapacity is beneficial. If the beliefs, values and preferences of the patient are unknown, the agent has the duty to make a decision in the patient’s best interests.

The agent has the responsibility to determine the risks and benefits of and any alternatives to any proposed health care. Furthermore, the agent cannot refuse or fail to honor the person’s wishes for anatomical gifts or organ, tissue or eye donation. Having the conversation with your agent about your religious values, beliefs or preferences is difficult, but knowing that your agent will act upon your preferences when you can’t act for itself will make the conversation worth it.

Written by Heather W. Winter, Esquire

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