|Health Care Proxy|
An FAQ about the Health Care Proxy
A New York State law called the Health Care Proxy law allows you to appoint someone you trust --for example, a family member or close friend-- to decide about treatment if you lose the ability to decide for yourself. You can do this by using the Health Care Proxy Form included in the following file, to appoint your "health care agent."
This law gives you the power to make sure that health care professionals follow your wishes. Your agent can also decide how your wishes apply as your medical condition changes. Hospitals, doctors and other health care providers must follow your agent's decisions as if they were your own.
You can give the person you select, your health care agent, as little or as much authority as you want. You can allow your agent to decide about all health care or only certain treatments. You may also give your agent instructions that he or she has to follow.
Why should I choose a health care agent?
If you become too sick to make health care decisions, someone else must decide for you. Health care professionals often look to family members for guidance. But family members are not allowed to decide to stop treatment, even when they believe that is what you would choose or what is best for you under the circumstances. Appointing an agent lets you control your medical treatment by:
How can I appoint a health care agent?
All competent adults can appoint a health care agent by signing a form called a Health Care Proxy. You don't need a lawyer, just two adult witnesses. You can use the form printed here, but you don't have to.
When would my health care agent begin to make treatment decisions for me?
Your health care agent would begin to make treatment decisions after doctors decide that you are not able to make health care decisions. As long as you are able to make treatment decisions for yourself, you will have the right to do so.
What decisions can my health care agent make?
Unless you limit your health
care agent's authority, your agent will be able to make any treatment
decision that you could have made if you were able to decide
for yourself. Your agent can agree that you should receive treatment,
choose among different treatments and decide that treatments
should not be provided, in accord with your wishes and interests.
If your health care
How will my health care agent make decisions?
You can write instructions on the proxy form. Your agent must follow your oral and written instructions, as well as your moral and religious beliefs. If your agent does not know your wishes or beliefs, your agent is legally required to act in your best interests.
Who will pay attention to my agent?
All hospitals, doctors and other health care facilities are legally required to honor the decisions by your agent. If a hospital objects to some treatment options (such as removing certain treatment) they must tell you or your agent in advance.
What if my health care agent is not available when decisions must be made?
You can appoint an alternate agent to decide for you if your health care agent is not available or able to act when decisions must be made. Otherwise, health care providers will make treatment decisions for you that follow instructions you gave while you were still able to do so. Any instructions that you write on your Health Care Proxy form will guide health care providers under these circumstances.
What if I change my mind?
It is easy to cancel the proxy, to change the person you have chosen as your health care agent or to change any treatment instructions you have written on your Health Care Proxy form. Just fill out a new form. In addition, you can require that the Health Care Proxy expire on a specified date or if certain events occur. Otherwise, the Health Care Proxy will be valid indefinitely. If you choose your spouse as your health care agent and you get divorced or legally separated, the appointment is automatically cancelled.
Can my health care agent be legally liable for decisions made on my behalf?
No. Your health care agent will not be liable for treatment decisions made in good faith on your behalf. Also, he or she cannot be held liable for costs of your care, just because he or she is your agent.
Is a health care proxy the same as a living will?
No. A living will is a document that provides specific instructions about health care treatment. It is generally used to declare wishes to refuse life-sustaining treatment under certain circumstances. In contrast, the health care proxy allows you to choose someone you trust to make treatment decisions on your behalf. Unlike a living will, a health care proxy does not require that you know in advance all the decisions that may arise. Instead, your health care agent can interpret your wishes as medical circumstances change and can make decisions you could not have known would have to be made. The health care proxy is just as useful for decisions to receive treatment as it is for decisions to stop treatment. If you complete a Health Care Proxy form, but also have a living will, the living will provides instructions for your health care agent, and will guide his or her decisions.
Where should I keep the proxy form after it is signed?
Give a copy to your agent, your doctor and any other family members or close friends you want. You can also keep a copy in your wallet or purse or with other important papers.
Appointing a Health Care Agent is a serious decision.
Make sure you talk about it with your family, close friends and your doctor. Do it in advance, not just when you are planning to enter the hospital. Filling out a Health Care Proxy is voluntary. No one can require you to do so.
The Health Care Proxy Law took effect January 1991; forms signed before that date are valid.
Examples of medical treatments about which you may wish to give your agent special instructions are listed below. (This is not a complete list of the treatments about which you may leave instructions.)
Talk about choosing an agent with your family and/or close friends. You should discuss this form with a doctor or another health care professional, such as a nurse or social worker, before you sign it to make sure that you understand the types of decisions that may be made for you. You may also wish to give your doctor a signed copy. You do not need a layer to fill out this form.
You can choose any adult (over 18), including a family member, or close friend, to be your agent. If you select a doctor as your agent, he or she may have to choose between acting as your agent or as your attending doctor, a physician cannot do both at the same time. Also, if you are a patient or resident of a hospital, nursing home or mental hygiene facility, there are special restrictions about naming someone who works for that facility as your agent. You should ask staff at the facility to explain those restrictions.
You should tell the person you choose that he or she will be your health care agent. You should discuss your health care wishes and this form with your agent. Be sure to give him or her a signed copy. Your agent cannot be sued for health care decisions made in good faith.
Even after you have signed this form, you have the right to make health care decisions for yourself as long as you are able to do so, and treatment cannot be given to you or stopped if you object. You can cancel the control given to your agent by telling him or her or your health care provider orally or in writing.
Filling Out the Proxy Form
Item 1: Write your name and the name, home address and telephone number of the person you are selecting as your agent.
Item 2: If you have special instructions for your agent, you should write them here. Also, if you wish to limit your agent's authority in any way, you should say so here. If you do not state any limitations, your agent will be allowed to make all health care decisions that you could have made, including the decision to consent to or refuse life-sustaining treatment.
Item 3: You may write the name, home address and telephone number of an alternate agent.
Item 4: This form will remain valid indefinitely unless you set an expiration date or condition for its expiration. This selection is optional and should be filled in only if you want the health care proxy to expire.
Item 5: You must date and sign the proxy. If you are unable to sign yourself, you may direct someone else to sign in your presence.
Click HERE to go to a printable copy of the Health
311 North Street, Suite 204, White Plains, NY 10605
Telephone: (914) 682-1484 FAX: (914) 559-3092
Hospice & Palliative
Care of Westchester conforms to the standards of the HIPAA
Act of 1996.
©2000 Hospice & Palliative Care of Westchester