Adults have the right to refuse or accept any medical treatment. But how are those important decisions made when an adult no longer has the capacity to make their own decisions? The answer is to appoint a health care proxy.
A health care proxy or agent is a person designated to make health care decisions for an individual. Health care proxies are common estate planning tools and allow a person to designate another person who will make decisions for a person while they are unable to so themselves.
You may appoint a family member or a close friend that you trust to make serious decisions. Your agent must be willing to accept the responsibility of making these important decision on your behalf and it is important that you discuss your wishes with your health care agent. In the event your first agent is unable, unavailable, or unwilling to make decisions on your behalf, it is important to appoint an alternate or back up agent.
Limitations on Who Can Act as Your Agent
Under New York Public Health Law §2981, you may not appoint the operator, administrator, or employee of a hospital where you are a patient or a resident or where you have applied for admission, unless the person is related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption. Your agent cannot also act as your attending physician. You cannot appoint as your agent someone who is already an agent for ten or more people, unless the agent is your spouse, child, parent, sibling, or grandparent. If you appoint your spouse as your agent, the health care proxy will be revoked automatically if you divorce or are legally separated.
Health Care Proxy Frequently Asked Questions