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In case your parents lose the ability to make decisions for themselves, even temporarily, it’s a good idea to have a back-up plan. That’s where the concept of a health care proxy comes in: The New York Health Care Proxy Law allows people to appoint someone they trust, usually a family member, to act as a health care agent, ensuring that doctors and other health care providers will follow their wishes in their medical care. If you become a parent’s health care agent, you will decide how your parent’s wishes apply as his or her medical condition progresses or changes. Doctors, nurses, and other health care providers must then follow your decisions as if they were made directly by your parent.
While health care providers often turn to family members for guidance related to a particular treatment, in New York State, only a health care agent that’s been appointed by a signed health care proxy has the legal authority to make treatment decisions if a patient is unable to decide for himself. This takes the guesswork out of trying to figure out what your parent will want to do in a particular situation—and it avoids potential conflicts or confusion among family members when it comes to making such decisions. As long as your parent is competent to make his or her own health care decisions, he or she will have the right to do so. But when a doctor deems that a parent is unable to, it’s time for the health care agent to step in.
By having an open, candid discussion about a parent’s wishes, you will be in a better position to act on his or her behalf when it comes to things like: choosing among different treatments, using artificial nutrition and hydration (and under what circumstances to do so), providing or removing life-support treatment (if the parent is in a coma), or donating organs and/or tissue if the parent dies. Once your parent signs a health care proxy, the agent should hold onto a copy; your parent should also give a copy to his or her doctor, attorney, and any other family members he or she feels should have it. Be sure the health care proxy remains current, too. To obtain a New York Health Care Proxy Form, click here.
A health care proxy is a legal document that designates a person who can make health care decisions for an individual, if that person is not able to make his or her wishes known. This designated person more...
Power of attorney is a legal document giving one person (called an "agent" or "attorney-in-fact") the power to act for another person (the principal). The agent can have broad legal authority or limited more...
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