Plan Ahead For Health Care
What is an advance directive?
Understanding Your Choices
FAQs
NYS Health Care Proxy Form
Where to keep your Advance Directive?
A safe and confidential place to store your advance directive documents.
They can be seen when needed to assure your wishes are known and honored.
Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ
Does a health care proxy give a health care agent authority to only make decisions about life-sustaining treatment?

Why is it important to name someone as your health care agent?

Won't my spouse or family be able to make decisions about my health care?

When is it important to name a health care agent and to have a conversation about health decisions and how you want to be cared for in the last phase of your life?

Who can be a health care agent?

Is a health care proxy only for people to refuse treatment?

When does my health care agent assume responsibility for my care?

How long is my health care proxy effective? Can it be changed?

When does a living will come into effect?

Does writing a living will mean that treatment will be withheld?

Will doctors and health care providers follow advance directives?

Do I need a lawyer to complete an advance directive?

How does a health care proxy differ from a power of attorney?

Will my advance directive forms be honored in other states if I travel?



Q: Does a health care proxy give a health care agent authority to only make decisions about life-sustaining treatment?
A: No. An agent can make all health care decisions that the patient could make while capable, from routine treatment decisions to decisions about life-sustaining treatments, unless stated otherwise by the person who writes the proxy form.
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Q: Why is it important to name someone as your health care agent?
A: If you do not have a health care agent, your doctor may be required to provide you with medical treatment that you would have refused if you were able to do so. This is particularly important for treatments that will keep you alive even if you have no hope of recovery.
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Q: Won't my spouse or family be able to make decisions about my health care?
A: At this time in New York, the only way to ensure that someone you trust will be able to make decisions about your health care is to appoint a health care agent. Family members have no legal authority to make decisions for you.
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Q: When is it important to name a health care agent and to have a conversation about health decisions and how you want to be cared for in the last phase of your life?
A: Anytime and soon, while you are able to understand your medical condition and able to share your wishes. Because this is a difficult discussion many people put it off until a health crisis forces the conversation. It is much easier to have this conversation before important decisions need to be made.

Every adult, over the age of 18, should have these conversations and should select a health care agent to be sure your wishes are honored in the event an accident or illness makes it impossible make your own health care decisions.
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Q: Who can be a health care agent?
A: Any adult (18 or older) can serve as your health care agent. This person cannot be your doctor or an employee of a health care provider responsible for your care, unless he or she is a family member. If you select a doctor as your agent, he or she will have to choose between acting as your agent or being your doctor.
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Q: Is a health care proxy only for people to refuse treatment?
A: No. The proxy is a vehicle to plan for the loss of decision-making capacity. It is just as valuable for people who want to receive every treatment possible. The health care proxy allows you to choose a family member or someone you trust to decide about treatment choices according to your wishes.
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Q: When does my health care agent assume responsibility for my care?
A: Your health care agent becomes responsible only when your doctor determines that you are unable to make decisions. Until then, you continue to be in charge of making your own health care decisions. Specifically the New York State Proxy Law states capacity to make health care decisions is defined as "the ability to understand and appreciate the nature and consequences of health care decisions, including the benefits and risks of and alternatives to any proposed health care, and to reach an informed decision."

Before your agent makes a decision to withdraw or withhold any life-sustaining treatment, your doctor must get an opinion from another doctor to confirm that you are unable to make this decision. If you object to a health care decision made by your agent, your doctor will follow your wishes unless a court has determined you are not competent to make health care decisions.
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Q: How long is my health care proxy effective? Can it be changed?
A: Your health care proxy is effective until your death. You should review it periodically because your personal and health situation may change. You can change your choice of health care agent or your living will at any time by creating a new document. Your health care proxy will automatically become invalid if your spouse is your health care agent and you are legally separated or divorced.
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Q: When does a living will come into effect?
A: A living will is used as a guide when your health care agent and others must make decisions for you and takes effect when you have an irreversible or terminal illness.
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Q: Does writing a living will mean that treatment will be withheld?
A: Preparing a living will does not mean you will receive no treatment. It means that you are more likely to receive the treatment that meets your wishes. Even if you say that you do not want treatments that will prolong your life, you can still receive treatments that will make you comfortable.
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Q: Will doctors and health care providers follow advance directives?
A: A health care proxy is a legal document and doctors are required to follow its instructions. It is important to share a copy of your health care proxy form and to discuss your wishes with your doctor in advance to avoid conflict and uncertainty when decisions need to be made.
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Q: Do I need a lawyer to complete an advance directive?
A: No, a lawyer is not needed to complete any advance directive document, including a health care proxy or living will. Also, you do not need to notarize your advance directive documents.
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Q: How does a health care proxy differ from a power of attorney?
A: A health care proxy is not a power of attorney. A power of attorney gives a person the authority to act for you in business matters for such things as making financial decisions or paying bills. A health care proxy gives a person the authority to make health care decisions for you if you are no longer able to make these decisions. New York State law requires that the health care proxy is a separate document.
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Q: Will my advance directive forms be honored in other states if I travel?
A: Each state has its own laws about advance directives. If the New York State forms comply with the laws of that state they must be honored. If you travel to another state you can learn about their laws through that state's Department of Health.
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