Options for End of Life Directives in New York

In New York, the law allows individuals to create what are known as “advanced directives” to help ensure that person’s end of life decisions are carried out in the event he or she is incapacitated or otherwise unable to make that choice. Advance directives are important for any individual, including young people, concerned about the medical state they may be left in following a serious accident, adverse medical event, or cognitive impairment brought on by alzheimer’s disease or dementia.


One of the three end of life directives legally recognized by New York law is the health care proxy which allows someone to appoint an agent to act on his or her behalf in cases where that person cannot make decisions for himself or herself. Health care proxies can be created using standard forms available from the New York State Department of Health and take effect when two doctors determine the testator is incapacitated.


Health care proxies can be either permanent or temporary, depending on the type of situation laid out in the documents. For example, a temporary health care proxy would ideal for someone going under general anesthesia and allow the proxy to make decisions quickly, if necessary. On the other hand, permanent health care proxies may be better suited for those facing long term risks due to dementia or alzheimer’s.


Living wills are another type of end of life directive that can be very important in certain situations. These documents allow persons to spell out what type of medical treatment they may or may not wish to receive in certain situations and are useful in allowing individuals to express their health care wishes to family members in difficult situations.


Lastly, do not resuscitate can be created to tell doctors and nurses whether or not to revive someone in the event that person’s heart stops beating or he or she is not breathing. The New York State Department of Health makes standard forms available for these types of requests and will need to be signed by a doctor to be valid.


Individuals may also write do no resuscitate instructions in either their living will or health care proxy form if they so choose. If the individual is too sick to enact this order himself or herself, the person’s health care agent named in a health care proxy form may act. Typically, this individual is a close family member or other relative but may be anyone else who the individual trusts.

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