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Q. What is a Heath Care Proxy and do I need one?

A. This form allows the person you choose to make all health care decisions for you including the decision to remove or provide life-sustaining treatment unless you say otherwise in this form. “Health care” means any treatment, service, or procedure to diagnose or treat your physical or mental condition. The person you appoint must be 18 years old or older and can be a family member or a friend. This individual will make medical decisions for you when you are unable to make any decisions.

If you have not executed a Health Care Proxy then the New York’s Family Health Care Decisions Act (FHCDA)(Chapter 8 of the Laws of 2010, adding Public Health Law Ch. 29-CC and 29-CCC) comes into effect and it allows a patient’s family member or close friend to make health care decisions for a patient who is in a hospital or nursing home This is important you can only make the decisions if the individual is in a hospital or nursing home.

Under the Act, the individual has to be determined to lack capacity to make health care decisions, under procedures specified in the statute, then a “surrogate” is chosen to make all health care decisions, in the following order of priority: Legal guardian appointed under Article 81 of the Mental Hygiene Law; Spouse or domestic partner as defined in the Act; Adult child; Parent; Brother or sister; Close friend, age 18 or over, or a relative other than those listed above as defined in the Act. If no one in the above is available to do so, then the Act has a specific procedure to follow.

Everyone should have a Health Care Proxy so you have control who will make all medical decisions for you if you are unable to.