What are the Benefits of a Health Care Proxy/Living Will?

The purpose of a Health Care Proxy and Living Will is to allow you to express your wishes concerning medical treatment in end of life situations and to appoint an individual to express your wishes if you are unable to do so. By expressing your wishes in a written legal document, you will ensure that your family members and/or friends are made aware of your wishes.

 The Health Care Proxy and Living Will are sometimes combined into one document or may be two separate documents. In a Health Care Proxy, you appoint a person (known as your Health Care Agent) to whom you grant authority to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to communicate your own wishes to health care providers because of illness or incapacity. In New York, you may appoint a single individual to act as your Health Care Agent. You may also appoint an alternate Health Care Agent to act on your behalf if your primary Health Care Agent is unable or unavailable to act.

If you wish to authorize your Health Care Agent to make decisions concerning the withdrawal of life support measures such as artificial nutrition and hydration, you must expressly authorize your Agent in writing to make these decisions in the Health Care Proxy document.

A Living Will is your written expression of how you wish to be treated in certain medical situations such as permanent unconsciousness or terminal illness. For example, you may express whether or not you wish to be given life-sustaining treatments such as food and water intravenously (tube feeding) if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious. You may also include other specific instructions to your health care providers in your Living Will, such as medical treatments that you do or do not want in end of life situations or permanent unconsciousness.

Another important benefit to having a Health Care Proxy and Living Will, besides making your wishes known concerning medical treatment, is to provide peace of mind to your family members and avoid having them make difficult choices concerning your treatment during a very stressful time. In addition, by designating a Health Care Agent, your physician knows whose directions should be followed if your family members disagree as to what medical treatment you would choose if you were able

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