When you least expect it, an illness or injury can leave you unable to communicate. If you don’t have any direction for your medical care, your family and doctors must decide on how to treat you. But when you are in a vulnerable medical state, you want someone you trust to make health care decisions for you.

New York lets you appoint a health care proxy when you plan for your future medical care. Instead of having doctors and family members disagreeing on how to move forward with care, you choose one person that you trust to make decisions.

When do you need a health care proxy?

An accident can leave you in a coma. Or a complication may happen during surgery while you are under anesthesia. Situations like these leave you unable to communicate your preferences for care. And when you have multiple family members trying to decide what route to take, there can be disagreements.

Appointing a proxy helps avoid disputes over your care. Only one person can legally make decisions for you.

Choosing your health care proxy

A health care proxy is someone that understands the wishes you have for medical care and makes sure doctors follow those wishes. You sign a legal document that gives the person the power to make decisions for you if you can’t. The person you appoint is someone who can be there when you have a serious medical issue and stay calm in a tense, emotional situation.

Expressing your wishes now

Once you choose your proxy, make sure they know exactly how you feel about medical care. Try to cover as many different medical situations as you can. If you communicate your thoughts now, your proxy can make the decision that follows your wishes.

All adults should have a health care proxy

The New York State Department of Health recommends all adults 18 and older have a health care proxy. They are an important part of estate planning. While you can create a living will that explains your wishes for medical care, a situation may arise that the living will doesn’t cover. When doctors need an answer right away to treat or not to treat, the health care proxy can be there to give them that answer.