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What is a health care proxy and what are the benefits of it?

In New York, under the state's Health Care Proxy Law, you can appoint to have someone else make medical decisions for you if you become unable to do so yourself. There are generally two situations in which that individual may be called upon to make decisions about your medical care.

One instance in which a health care proxy may be invoked is if you have been put to sleep during a surgical procedure. If a medical decision needs to be rendered while you're knocked out, then having a health care proxy in place will allow that other individual to make choices on your behalf.Another instance in which the health care proxy may be invoked is if you suffer some type of medical event that renders you unable to communicate your own wishes. Some examples of instances in which this may occur include if you are in a persistent vegetative state, suffer from Alzheimer's or dementia, or become comatose.

In the absence of a health care proxy, it's important to note that a patient will still receive treatment for whatever condition ails them. The health care proxy simply allows for a person, through their loved one, to voice his or her wishes as to what type of medical care he or she wishes to receive. Under New York state law, doctors and other medical providers are required to follow your proxy's directives as if they were the patient's own.

Health care proxies aren't required to be uniform in doling out authority. Instead, the individual drafting the proxy can give his or her loved one as much or as little right to make decisions for him or her as he or she wishes. In some cases, they may even authorize for their loved one to voice their treatment preferences if certain thresholds are met or if certain diagnoses are made.

When you're thinking about drafting a health care proxy, you'll want to advise your loved one that you're appointing him or her to this role. You'll also want to go over with them your health care preferences with them so they'll have a better understanding of the care choices you want made.

If you'd like to gain a better understanding as to the benefits of health care proxies and how to draft a legally-binding one, then a Queens, New York, estate planning attorney can provide guidance in your legal matter.

Source: New York State Department of Health, "Who will speak for you?," accessed Oct. 04, 2017

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