In New York, the law allows you to pick someone you trust to act as a proxy, or decision-maker, on your behalf to make health care decisions if you are unable to make them for yourself.
One common misconception that many individuals have is that if they are young and/or healthy, they don’t need to have a health care proxy. This isn’t true. Everyone over the age of 18 should have someone appointed as their health care proxy, because anyone can experience a situation in which they are unconscious or otherwise unable to make a health care decision.
There are two situations in which a person may need to have a health care proxy. The first is temporary incapacity, such as if you were under anesthesia and an unexpected complication required a medical decision to be made. The second situation is permanent incapacity, such as the result of a comatose state caused by an accident or illness, or, if elderly, by an inability to make decisions caused by dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
In either situation, you’ll need someone whom you trust and who understands your values to make health care decisions for you. Health care providers must follow the instructions given by your proxy as if they were your own. Therefore, you will want someone acting on your behalf that understands your wishes and will act accordingly. It is extremely important to discuss your wishes with your chosen proxy. Do not assume that because the person knows you well, he or she will know what you would want them to do.
Additionally, once you’ve chosen a proxy, it is important to make sure all your loved ones know who your chosen proxy is, and make sure he or she, and your medical provider, has copies of your paperwork.
Choosing a health care proxy can be complicated. Luckily, the New York State Bar Association provides useful information and all the forms to appoint someone to be your proxy.
Posted in Estate Planning | Tagged advance health care directive, health care proxy, incapacitation