Why do I need a Health Care Proxy?
I’d like to answer a question that clients often ask: Why do I need a Health Care Proxy? A Health Care Proxy is a legal document. In New York State, it’s authorized by the Public Health Law Section 29-C.
What is Public Health Law Section 29-C?
Why do we have it? It allows you to appoint someone else to make health care decisions for you if you cannot. So when does this happen? It can happen because you have an illness, you had an accident, if somebody had a stroke or a heart attack. There are many, many times when it could be needed. It is an important document. A Health Care Proxy a simple document. It’s just a one page document but it’s very effective because it appoints a person to make legal health care decisions for you. And, it’s something that most people don’t have. It is something that we don’t normally do as a stand-alone document. We’re usually doing this as a part of an estate plan where we’re working on other documents such as a last will and testament or trust, power of attorney, and so on. The power of attorney document is something that you could download. You can go online, you can download a form. But there are a number of different things that are missing from that form that the average person doesn’t know about. The reason that we modify these things is because of the experience that we have in dealing with health care issues. In particular, for people who have had a stroke before, have had a heart attack before, it’s very important to have these documents in place so that if something happens to you again, you have someone designated to make decisions for you. And it’s important to have a discussion with them, of course, to let them know what your wishes are in different situations that could occur for you.
There is an organization that I’m helping to support that has a telethon annually; LanguageofLoveTelethon.org. You can go and get information about them. They’re helping to raise awareness for stroke and victims of aphasia, so that they have information about what to look for- signs of strokes and aphasia, and the important legal documents and other things that you should have in place in case something like this happens to you.
I’m going to share with you one thing that we modify on the state-designated form for a Health Care Proxy that’s very important. A lot of people don’t realize that if you designate an agent, you don’t want to designate multiple agents to make a decision. Why is that? Because when you have multiple people, particularly family members, that you designate to make a decision, they may disagree. And if they disagree at one of the worst times for there to be a disagreement, that is namely when someone is laying in a hospital bed and needs a prompt and intelligent decision, you don’t want that to happen. So, it’s important to designate a single person as your health care agent. You can designate other people as successor agents, in case the first is not available, and you could designate two or three agents.
This is a very important document to have. It is something that we can help you with at Leonick Law, and I hope that you’ll support my friends at LanguageofLoveTelethon.org. Please give us a call. Thank you.
James F. Leonick
Leonick Law, P.L.L.C.
TEL: (631) 486-9500