New York Health Care Proxy Law

Health care proxies can make decisions on your behalf if illness or injury leaves you unable to make decisions for yourself. In New York State, designating someone as your agent is an excellent way to ensure that treatment reflects your wishes; alternatively you can provide written instructions – often known as Living Will – which your health care agent will consider when making decisions on your behalf.

Legal documents refer to the person you entrust with making decisions on your behalf as your “health care agent” or “surrogate.” When selecting an individual for this role, make sure they respect your values and follow directions as requested. Feel free to give this person as much or little authority to make decisions on your behalf as you prefer; additionally it would be wise to name an alternate agent as well, just in case their primary choice becomes sick or is otherwise incapacitated in fulfilling their responsibilities.

Under New York law, in order to appoint a health care proxy you must possess the capacity. This requires being at least 18 years old and mentally capable of making healthcare decisions for yourself in order to create an advance directive including a health care proxy. Unfortunately determining incapacity can be challenging; even minor health care issues may affect a person’s ability to make their own health care decisions independently.

Have a health care proxy, or medical power of attorney, is the best way to ensure that your end-of-life plans are carried out according to your wishes. But it’s also important to revisit and update it on an ongoing basis, especially after significant events occur like turning 30, being diagnosed with serious diseases or accidents, reaching milestone anniversaries etc.

As soon as you are able, it is wise to discuss with your agent any preferences and changes that you might require. Furthermore, ensure they have access to copies of both your signed healthcare proxy and living will in order to share it with any healthcare providers as necessary.

Your health care proxy can be changed or revoked at any time as long as you remain mentally competent to make such decisions. In fact, it would be wise to review both of these documents each year or whenever a significant event arises that might prompt deeper consideration of future plans.

Health care proxys typically can only overrule your instructions if they are medically detrimental to you or violate your rights. If they override them, however, they must notify both yourself and your doctor within one hour; otherwise the court will make the call on what action to take on behalf of a patient in their best interest.

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