Health Care Agent, Proxy, or Surrogate: What's the Difference?


If you are no longer able to direct your own health care, someone else must speak for you. The person who works with your doctors and makes treatment decisions on your behalf may be called your agent, proxy, surrogate, or something similar.

What your representative is called depends on the state where you live and on whether or not you make a document -- called $DPA_DOC_NAME_ARTICLE -- naming the representative of your choice.

In Arizona, if you make a $DPA_DOC_NAME_ARTICLE, the person who you appoint to make medical decisions for you is called your $HC_AGENT_NAME.

If you don't appoint your own representative, state law says who is responsible for making your treatment decisions. The person named by law is called your $HC_SURROGATE_NAME.

If a Court Gets Involved

If you become severely incapacitated and have not named someone to represent you, a court may appoint someone to manage all of your personal affairs, including your health care decisions. In Arizona, this person would be called your $HC_GUARDIAN_NAME.

Learn More

To learn more about the importance of appointing your own representative, see What Arizona Residents Need to Know About Living Wills and Medical Powers of Attorney.

For more details about who will serve if you don't appoint a representative, see Who Makes My Health Care Decisions If I Don't Name an Agent in Arizona?