A Health Care Proxy is a legally enforceable document in New York utilized to appoint someone (your Agent) to make health care decisions for you if you become unable, even temporarily, to make health care decisions for yourself. Appointing an Agent lets you control your future medical care and allows your agent to make health care decisions on your behalf as you would want them decided. Selecting your Agent could avoid conflict or confusion among family members and loved ones.
Anyone 18 years of age or older can be an Agent under your Health Care Proxy form. The person you are appointing as your agent or your alternate agent cannot sign as a witness on your Health Care Proxy, and it is not a good idea to select your treating physician because of conflict of interest policies that would require they stop treating you if they are your Agent.
Your health care agent would begin to make health care decisions after your doctor decides that you are not able to make your own health care decisions. As long as you are able to make health care decisions for yourself, you will have the right to do so.
Your agent will be able to make any health care decision that you could have made if you were able to decide on your own. Your agent can agree that you should receive treatment, choose among different treatments and decide that treatments should not be provided, in accordance with your wishes and interests.
Even though you are not elderly or terminally ill, it is a good idea to sign a Health Care Proxy now. An Agent under a HCP can act on your behalf if you become even temporarily unable to make your own health care decisions (i.e. during surgery or if you are incapacitated by an accident). When you regain the ability make your own health care decisions, your health care agent will no longer be authorized to act.
Your Agent must follow your wishes, as well as your moral and religious beliefs. You may write instructions on your Health Care Proxy form or simply discuss them with your agent. However, your agent can only make decisions about a feeding tube if the Agent knows your wishes from what you have said or what you have written. The Health Care Proxy form does not give your agent the power to make non-health care decisions for you, such as financial decisions, this is covered by your Power of Attorney.
You may appoint an alternate Agent to decide for you if your primary Agent is unavailable, unable or unwilling to act. Likewise, you can put the Agent’s cell phone number on the Health Care Proxy form to permit out-of-town Agents to still converse with your treating medical professionals. Otherwise, health care providers will make health care decisions for you that follow instructions you gave while you were still able to do so, if any. Any instructions that you write on your Health Care Proxy form will guide health care providers under these circumstances.
A living will is a document that is not legally enforceable and only provides instructions about end-of-life treatment. As a best practice, we always include these instructions on the Health Care Proxy form. The Health Care Proxy allows you to choose someone you trust to make health care decisions on your behalf, and does not require that you know in advance all the decisions that may arise. If you want to indicate your end-of-life preferences in writing, the best method is to include them on your Health Care Proxy form.
Most Health Care Proxy forms have optional organ and tissue donation sections. You can specify and limit how and what organs and tissue may be donated. Failure to elect to become an organ donor on your Health Care Proxy form does not preclude you from using an optional method to enroll in organ donation (i.e. complying with the rules for becoming an organ donor on your Driver’s License or by registering in the NY Organ Donor Network.