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What are health care proxies and what duties do they have?

Minor children enjoy the benefit of having parents that reserve the legal right to make medical decisions on their behalf. Once that individual turns 18, though, the ability to decide what is right for his or her health becomes solely his or her own.

It's when an individual hits adulthood that the New York State Health Department suggests that it's important for him or her to appoint a health care proxy. It's this person that will be given the authority to make medical decisions for another should he or she become incapacitated and unable do so on his or her own.

Under New York's Health Care Proxy Law, it highlights two instances in which it may be necessary to have a health care agent make a decision on another's behalf. In one such situation, an individual might be having a surgical procedure performed that requires him or her to be anesthetized.

In this case, you may be asked to select someone who you trust, like a close friend or family member, to make medical decisions for you while you're unable to do so yourself. Once you've regained consciousness, he or she no longer enjoys that right.

Another situation it's important to have a health care proxy for is if you happen to become permanently incapacitated. You may be described as being in this state if you're suffering from one of the following conditions: in a persistent vegetative state, if you have Alzheimer's or dementia, are comatose or have some type of profound communication impairment.

In cases such as these, while you'll still receive proper care even if you don't have a health care proxy, your personal preferences may better upheld if you do.

Health care agents can be anyone that you trust to make critical health decisions for you. The proxy that you draft can give him or her as much authority as you like to render decisions, which includes allowing him or her to provide input in particularly critical situations, as it relates to certain procedures or treatments, or simply to voice your preferences with respect to organ or tissue donation.

If you're looking to ensure your wishes will be upheld in the event you find yourself medically incapacitated, then you may benefit from speaking with a Queens, New York, estate planning attorney about health care proxies.

Source: New York State Department of Health, "Who will speak for you?," accessed July 28, 2017

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