Under New York law, you are allowed to appoint an agent to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make those decisions on your own by preparing and signing a health care proxy form. Your health care agent has the ability to interpret your wishes as your medical condition changes and circumstances surrounding your health care change. You can designate the types of decisions you want your agent to make and/or put an expiration period on the health care proxy. It is also possible to designate a successor when your agent is unavailable or to make two health care proxy designees giving agents different decision-making powers with or without time limits. For example, you could designate your spouse with the decision-making process regarding life support and do not resuscitate matters and designate your son, who must be over the age of 18, with the decision-making process regarding organ donor decisions.
Decisions that are commonly made by a health proxy designee include the following:
- Life support if you are in a coma
- treatments continued or discontinued
- Artificial nutrition and hydration and under what types of circumstances
- Organ donor decisions
Who Can be a Health Care Proxy Agent
The following persons can be designed as your agent:
- Your spouse
- Domestic partner
- A child over the age of 18
- Father or mother or both jointly or other family members
- Your attorney
Your doctor or health care provider cannot be your agent under New York law. Hospitals, doctors and other health care providers are required to abide by your health care proxy and follow your wishes and the decisions made by your agent. Your agent will not be held liable for any decisions.
Making Changes to a Health Proxy
If you decide you want to change your agent, you can do so at any time by signing a new health care proxy form. Otherwise, your health care proxy would remain in effect until you pass away, unless it has an expiration period. When you get a divorce or you are legally separated, your appointment of your ex-spouse is automatically canceled. However, if you want your ex-spouse to remain as your health care proxy agent, you can add a statement to your current health care proxy, or sign a new one.
It is a good idea to keep a copy of your health care proxy in your wallet and to give a copy to your agent, your other family members, a close friend or your attorney in case there is an emergency, and you are unable to make decisions about your health care and treatments. This way you know your wishes will be followed. An attorney can assist you with the preparation of your health care proxy and answer any questions you may have about the use of it.
If you wish to speak to a New York estate attorney, call the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin at (212) 233-1233.