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Important points about a health proxy

New Yorkers who are concerned about the possibility that they might become incapacitated and unable to make their own decisions will want to consider a healthy proxy. This document is part of a well-crafted estate plan and should not be ignored. It is not just for people who are older. People of any age can benefit from having a health proxy. When formulating strategies to prepare for potential eventualities and avoid family disputes, grasping certain points about a health proxy is essential.

When signing a health proxy, the person who is designated as the agent can make all the health care decisions. That includes denying certain treatments and services. The proxy is required to know about the person's wishes in terms of life support, so if this information is not known, then the decision cannot be made by the proxy. Once a medical professional determines that the person is no longer able to make health care decisions on his or her own, the health proxy will be authorized to do so.

The form can have the kinds of treatments that the person does not want to be administered in the event he or she is incapacitated. This can limit the power that the proxy has. The instructions must be followed. Any adult can be chosen as the health proxy. It does not have to be a family member. Selecting a doctor as the health agent will eliminate that person from being both the person's doctor and the proxy at the same time. The proxy must be someone willing to take the responsibility. Naming a spouse as the proxy and then separating or divorcing that person means that the person cannot be the proxy unless it is specified that they can remain in the position.

A person will still retain the right to make his or her own health care decisions if they are able to do so. The authority given to the health proxy can be rescinded by the person at any time. This is a voluntary process. If the person wants to donate organs or tissue after death, this can be listed on the form. A health proxy is not a small decision and those who are thinking about it should be aware of the law. Discussing the matter with an experienced estate planning attorney is key.

Source: health.ny.gov, "Health Care Proxy -- About the Health Care Proxy Form," accessed on July 4, 2017

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