HB 995: Alternate agent for medical power of attorney could cause confusion

Michael Barba
Associate Director of Public Policy

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops oppose HB 995.

Cause for Opposition. On page 6, lines 17-20 HB 995 states:

“You may wish to designate an alternate agent in the event that your agent is unwilling, unable, or ineligible to act as your agent. Any alternative agent you designate has the same authority as the agent to make health care decisions for you.”

The alternative agent clause allows multiple agents to consent for an individual at the same time. This would complicate important documents and processes at some of the most difficult and critical moments in a person’s life. While proponents may claim that the bill does not authorize the agents to be effective at the same time, there is nothing in the bill that prohibits this. By removing required forms for medical power of attorney, there is nothing to prohibit a person from designating multiple concurrent agents.

The purpose of establishing a medical power of attorney is to ensure that clear and actionable instructions and preferences are given to healthcare staff when an individual loses the ability to communicate. Such instructions and preferences allow medical professionals to act quickly in difficult situations because they are confident that the designated individual expresses the patient’s wishes as the patient himself would have done, if he were not incapacitated.

By allowing co-effective instructions from multiple sources, HB 995 implies that the patient had no single instruction or preference. This will delay the care provided by medical professionals, and caregivers may also be given conflicting instructions. HB 995 does not provide guidance upon what medical professionals must do in cases of conflicts between alternative agents. As we all know, some of the most painful and conflicted moments in family dynamics occur when a loved one is facing an end of life decision and family members disagree on how to proceed. HB 995 will result in more doubt than clarity when it comes to these painful family disagreements.