Advance health care directives recognized in New York

As many of our readers know, advance health care directives are legal documents meant to ensure that a person's wishes are fulfilled even when they are unable to make an independent decision due to advanced age or poor health. Three types of advance heath care directives are recognized in New York State: the New York State Health Care Proxy; a living will; and a Do Not Resuscitate Order.

A New York State Health Care Proxy lets people choose health care agents who can make decisions on their behalf when they are unable to make health care decisions themselves. This directive comes into effect when at least two doctors are of the opinion that the person requesting the proxy is unable to make an independent decision. A standard New York State form is available and copies of the form need to be shared with the chosen health care agent, family members and the doctors who provide the care.

A living will is a legal document that clearly states what a person wants, or does not want, during the last stages of life. A living will is to be created ahead of time and it comes into effect when the person is unable to make his or her own decisions and a doctor determines that the person is terminally ill. There are not standard forms for this, but several sample forms are available from multiple sources. Nonetheless, a person may also write down the living will instructions on a New York State Health Care Proxy form.

A Do Not Resuscitate Order, or a "DNR," is an advance health care directive that forbids others from reviving the DNR-issuing person if breathing stops or if the heart stops beating. A DNR comes into effect when endorsed by the DNR-issuing person's doctor. A standard DNR form is available in addition to forms issued by hospitals. There is also a provision for a Nonhospital Order Not to Resuscitate. If a person is too unwell to sign a DNR, the chosen health care agent or a close family member can sign the form. A person may also choose to include the DNR instructions on a Health Care Proxy form or a living will.

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