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You may imagine that any time you need medical attention, you and your doctor will discuss your symptoms and then determine what treatment you want. But what if you are in an accident and are unconscious? What if you develop a mental health condition that makes it impossible for you to choose for yourself?

According to, the law provides you with options to cover situations such as these through a health care surrogate designation, which is one of your health care advance directive options.

Your health care surrogate is the person the doctor will talk to if you are unconscious or otherwise incapacitated and cannot make your own health care decisions. Therefore, you want to make sure you trust this person completely to convey your wishes. Ideally, you will already have discussed your preferences, feelings and beliefs towards the various options that may be available to you in an emergency or end-of-life situation.

If you do not choose a surrogate, the doctor may speak to your spouse, adult child, parent, sibling or close friend. The court may also appoint a guardian to make the decisions for you in some cases.

Another advance directive you may prepare ahead of time is a living will, in which you may designate the types of treatment you want or do not want. Your surrogate may then only need to step in under circumstances that have not already been addressed in that document.

Whether you choose a surrogate, write a living will, or both, make sure that your advance directive has two witnesses, one of which is not your spouse or related by blood.

This general information about advance directives is for educational purposes only and should not be considered medical or legal advice.