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What is a health care proxy?

Unfortunately, some people in New York will be the victims of accidents or will experience serious illnesses that lead to their being incapacitated and no longer able to make important decisions regarding their health care. In such a situation, someone else will make the decisions on the behalf of the incapacitated person, and if there has not been someone appointed who is willing to make decisions that are in line with his or her wishes, the health care that is utilized will be out of the incapacitated person's control.

In order to provide people with more control over their medical care in the event they become incapacitated, New York law allows people to appoint other people as a health care proxy in case they are no longer able to make such decisions for themselves. A health care proxy is then tasked with making health care decisions on the behalf of the person, and those decisions must be made in accordance with the person's wishes.

People may select a health care proxy while they are still competent. These selections are made in connection with drafting advanced directives in which people clearly define the types of treatment they are willing to receive and those that they wish to forgo. It is important to ensure that the selected health care proxy is willing to make the decisions according to the wishes of the person and that they will be available. Sometimes, people will select an alternate health care proxy just in case their first choice is either unwilling or unable to perform those duties when the time comes.

When planning how to handle an estate, end of life care should not be overlooked. People may wish to discuss drafting advance directives and selecting a health care proxy with their estate planning attorney.

Source: Findlaw, "NY Code - Section 2981: Appointment of health care agent; health care proxy", December 09, 2014

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