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More Information on Health Care Proxies

Health Care Proxies

A Health Care Proxy is a document signed by you in the presence of two witnesses, in which you grant to another individual the power to make health care decisions in the event that you are incapable of doing so for yourself.

A similar document is a Living Will, which differs from a Health Care Proxy, in that a Living Will does not designate a particular individual to carry out your wishes, but rather sets forth certain guidelines which a health care provider would follow in the case of your disability.

Health Care Proxies are specifically authorized by New York State Law and are considered preferable to a Living Will, by many, for the following reasons:

  • The designation of a proxy to make your health care decisions means that you will have a person who will definitely be an active participant in the decisions concerning your health care in the event that you are unable to make such decisions for yourself. Many times, a Living Will may be filed with a doctor or a hospital and overlooked by the staff of such doctor or hospital and, therefore, your desires would not be carried out.
  • Directives in Living Wills must be very specific and, often times, a physical condition which was not contemplated at the time of the preparation of the Living Will may arise. A Health Care Proxy would enable the person who was given the authority to make any decisions, including those concerning treatment for an unanticipated injury or illness. The Health Care Proxy is, therefore, a more flexible document.
  • A Health Care Proxy can be used for medical treatment decisions of a temporary nature such as to perform surgical procedures or to receive life sustaining treatment in the event that you could not decide for yourself. Generally a Living Will is used for the withholding of life treatment only. Health Care Proxies can, however, contain some basic directions to your proxy concerning such matters as resuscitation and the provision of withholding of artificial ventilation, hydration and nutrition. The provision of these specific directives will guarantee that your personal desires and feelings with regard to such health care issues are carried out while, at the same time, giving your health care proxy latitude in all other areas to make decisions effecting your health care.

Regardless of your philosophical or religious beliefs concerning such issues, it is recommended that all persons have a Health Care Proxy, such that their own personal desires and wishes are carried out.