It can be difficult to think about end-of-life decisions, for yourself or a loved one. No one likes to contemplate death or the circumstances which may surround it. But if planning for that eventuality is something you believe is necessary, it’s important to understand your options. New York has two common options available to you – the living will and the health care proxy.
Health care proxy
The purpose of naming a health care proxy is to ensure that, if you become incapacitated, someone you trust is able to make medical decisions on your behalf. Typically, the proxy is a family member who lives near you. By naming them your proxy, you grant them legal authority to make health care decisions should you become unable to make them for yourself.
The scope of the proxy’s authority is up to you. You can grant them broad authority to make all health care decisions, or limit their authority to specific situations or treatments. For the proxy’s authority to take effect, two different doctors must determine that you are incapacitated and incapable of making decisions for yourself.
While appointing a health care proxy names a specific person, a living will does not. Instead, it is aimed at any and all medical personnel who may treat you if you become incapacitated. The purpose of a living will is to indicate your specific preferences with respect to potential life-saving treatments, so that medical professionals know your wishes if those circumstances arise.
Often, a living will is executed in tandem with the appointment of a health care proxy. The living will operates to express your specific wishes while the proxy is there to make decisions you did not anticipate.