A Health Care Proxy is a legal document that authorizes someone you appoint (your “agent”) to make medical and health care decisions for you, if you are unable to make them yourself. These include end of life decisions. The idea behind a Health Care Proxy is that someone makes the decisions you would have made, had you been able. In New York, there can only be one agent. That person alone has the authority to make decisions for you.
Therefore, it’s critical that your health care agent clearly understands your wishes concerning your medical and health care, and the circumstances in which you may choose not to have your life sustained.
Health Care Proxies are valuable for another important reason. They prevent and help resolve disputes within families. The health care agent has sole authority in making decisions, and is operating based on your philosophy about medical choices. Legally, family members who disagree will find it extremely difficult to interfere.
The Family Health Care Decisions Act underscores the importance of the Health Care Proxy. This law gives family members, and others deemed in close relationship to you, the right to make medical and life-sustaining decisions on your behalf, if you become mentally incapacitated. The legislation contains a number of ambiguities, and it also permits others to object, which can lead to delays and litigation.
Since you want to avoid potential court proceedings that could arise from a dispute, a Health Care Proxy is still essential to good planning. You can choose the specific health care agent you want, instead of leaving it to a statutory scheme and the discretion of others. Decision-making becomes an easier and more streamlined process.