Hogan Willig Gives Guidance in Preparation for
"National Health Care Decisions Day"
Brought to you by: HoganWillig, Attorneys at Law
April 16, 2012 is "National Healthcare Decisions Day." It is a day set aside to educate the public about the importance of health care planning and to encourage people to express their personal wishes regarding health care, in writing, before a health care crisis occurs.
Although it is a difficult issue to address, it is important for adults of all ages and stages of life to consider who is best-suited to make medical decisions for them in the event they become too ill speak for themselves and convey their own wishes. Without such directives, these important decisions and related matters may be left to the control of medical professionals, estranged or inappropriate family members or even the Court, all of whom may know little to nothing about you, your values and morals, or your overall wishes.
Here are some terms you should get to know:
Health Care Proxy: A Health Care Proxy is a document which allows you to designate an agent to make health care decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable to do so. Your health care agent should be a person you trust to carry-out your wishes and deal with your physicians.
Living Will: A Living Will supplements the Health Care Proxy by allowing you to document your wishes concerning treatment during a terminal illness or in the event you are in a permanent vegetative state where there is no reasonable likelihood of recovery. It is always recommended that you engage in a thorough conversation with your designated agent to discuss your wishes and to contemplate various scenarios.
By designating such an agent, you will also help avoid the need for costly and extensive Court intervention, in the event of both short and long-term incapacitation.
Family Health Care Decisions Act: On March 16, 2010, NYS Governor David Paterson signed the Family Health Care Decisions Act ("FHCDA") into law. The FHCDA may permit family members to make medical decisions, including decisions about the withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, for patients who have lost their ability to make medical decisions and who had not previously prepared a Health Care Proxy or Living Will.
HOWEVER, the FHCDA may give some a false sense of security and belief that written a Health Care Proxy or Living Will is not needed. That is not the case.
The law established a protocol for doctors to determine whether a patient has decision-making capacity. When it is determined that a patient does not have decision-making capacity, the law requires the selection of a 'surrogate' from a list of individuals ranked in order of priority, including family members, domestic partners and close friends.
The FHCDA does not solve problems where individuals desire to make very specific medical decisions for themselves based upon their own personal, religious or moral beliefs. Additionally, in family disputes, there will still be issues. The best way for a patient to express his/her own wishes, avoid family conflicts and select one's own health care agent is to have a written Health Care Proxy and/or Living Will.
Although these matters can be difficult to contemplate and discuss, ignoring the issue can lead to devastating results for both you and your loved ones. While we understand there is an endless supply of generic templates and forms for advanced medical directives in circulation, we encourage all to work with a law professional to draft a comprehensive document that considers both your unique legal and personal circumstances and which designates not only the appropriate agent, but multiple successor agents of your choosing.
If you have any questions about this information, or wish to speak to an Elder Law/Estate Planning attorney, please contact HoganWillig, Attorneys at Law at 716-636-7600 or visit www.hoganwillig.com.