|Q & A
Under New York's health care proxy law, any competent
person can authorize another person, usually a family
member, to make health care decisions, if the patient
becomes unable to do so.
This is done by completing the standard health care
proxy form, noting the person you are designating to make
decisions, noting any specific decision that you want the
person you are designating to make, and by signing the
document in front of two witnesses.
WHY DO I NEED A HEALTH
Without a health care proxy, your doctor may be
required to provide you with medical treatment that you
would have refused if you were able to do so. For example,
your doctor may be required to provide you with artificial
nutrition and hydration, a respirator, or CPR, even though
you are in a coma with no hope of recovery, or are
WHEN DOES IT TAKE EFFECT?
The health care proxy becomes effective only when you
become unable to make decisions, as determined by a
physician. Until then, you continue to be in charge of
making your own health care decisions. It can be revoked
orally, and you always have the right while competent to
sign a new health care proxy.
HOW IS A HEALTH CARE PROXY
DIFFERENT THAN A POWER OF ATTORNEY?
A health care proxy is different than a power of
attorney. A power of attorney primarily authorizes the
person you designate to make financial decisions for you.
It cannot be used to make health care decisions. You must
complete a health care proxy in order to have an agent to
make health care decisions when you are not able.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE
BETWEEN A HEALTH CARE PROXY AND A LIVING WILL?
A health care proxy is also different than a living
will, although each serves the same purpose of allowing
you to make decisions in advance about your health care. A
living will is a document that you sign in advance in
which you specifically set forth your decisions about
health care treatment. Unlike the health care proxy,
however, it does not authorize you to appoint an agent to
make decisions that you did not anticipate when you
completed the living will. The health care proxy provides
specific instructions and also designates an agent to make
decisions when there are events you did not anticipate.