The Maryland Health Care Decisions Act – How to Become a Surrogate Decision Maker

February 25, 2020

We strongly advise our clients to execute proper health care documents like the Health Care Power of Attorney to appoint a health care agent and Advance Directives to make their wishes known on issues involving life-prolonging measures and options. While most intend to get these documents put in place, sometimes it does not happen quickly enough.

What happens when a person is no longer capable of making their own medical decisions? When there is no health care agent appointed, a surrogate may, under certain conditions, act on the person’s behalf.

The Maryland Health Care Decisions Act sets out the circumstances under which someone else can make medical decisions for a person who is unable to make these decisions for himself or herself. The first requirement is that two physicians certify in writing that the person is incapable of making medical decisions.

Individuals may function as surrogates in the following order of priority:

  • A guardian previously appointed by the court
  • A spouse or domestic partner
  • An adult child
  • A parent
  • An adult sibling
  • A close friend or relative, who is 18 years or older, competent and can prove that he or she is familiar with the person’s personal beliefs.

A surrogate can give informed consent for all medical decisions needed. The surrogate should attempt to make decisions based on what the person would choose if capable. If the surrogate has no information about the person's wishes, the surrogate should use the standard of best interest.

For more information on Maryland’s Health Care Decisions Act or planning for health care issues, please contact Stouffer Legal at 443-470-3599 in the Greater Baltimore area.

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