HEALTH CARE PROXIES
The New York Health Care Proxy Law allows you to appoint an agent, a family member or trusted friend, to ensure that doctors and other health care providers follow your wishes if you lose the ability to communicate your wishes on your own. If you have a valid and enforceable Health Care Proxy, your agent is empowered to make health care decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so.
Some people believe that they will only need a Health Care Proxy at life’s end. Without a crystal ball, this makes things difficult! Also, at any age, you may need to have an agent make medical decisions on your behalf if, for instance, you are under anesthesia or in case of an accident or other medical emergency. Under these circumstances, your agent’s authority might be temporary and will end once you regain your ability to make decisions independently.
Sometimes the agent is required to act on a more permanent basis. If you have a stroke or suffer the symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, or if you are comatose due to an injury or illness, the agent may be required to make all of your health and medical decisions on an on-going basis.
In either case, the job of the health care agent is to act as your voice and make health care decisions in accordance with your wishes or in your best interests. Hospitals, doctors and other health care providers are required, by law, to follow your agent’s decisions as if you had communicated them.
Once you have appointed your agent it is important to discuss your health care proxy with the agent and to advise your agent of your wishes.