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Advance Care Planning

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do I need to complete both a Health Care Proxy and Living Will?
Completing both documents helps to ensure that you receive the medical care you desire. However, you should continue to have ongoing discussions with your Spokesperson (“Agent”) to assure that that person knows your values and wishes and can speak on your behalf regardless of what your circumstances may be.

In addition, it is beneficial to have completed both documents in case you suffer an injury, or acute medical episode, while traveling and are unable to make decisions for yourself. Completing both documents increases the likelihood that at least one of the documents will be legally recognized in another state.

2. How can I be sure that my New York Health Care Proxy will be honored?

To be legally valid, you must sign and date your Health Care Proxy form in the presence of two adult witnesses. The witnesses must sign a statement in your Health Care Proxy to confirm that you signed the document willingly and free from duress. Your Spokesperson (“Agent”) and Alternate cannot act as witnesses.

3. How do I make sure that my New York Living Will is going to be honored?

Unlike most states, New York does not have a specific law recognizing living wills but relies upon “clear and convincing evidence” of your wishes. Documenting your wishes in a Living Will helps to show the required level of “clear and convincing evidence.” You should follow the witnessing procedures established in the Health Care Proxy Act and sign your Living Will in the presence of two adult witnesses. Indicate the presence of your Living Will under the Optional Instructions section of the New York Health Care Proxy form.

4. Can I list more than one Alternate Agent?
Yes, you may list as many as you would like. However, each Alternate must meet the appropriate criteria.

5. Do I need to add personal instructions to my New York Health Care Proxy?
You do not need to add personal instructions to your Health Care Proxy except regarding artificial nutrition and hydration. One of the strongest reasons for naming a Spokesperson (“Agent”) is to have someone who can respond flexibly to changes in your medical situation. Adding personal instructions to the New York Health Care Proxy may unintentionally restrict your Spokesperson’s (“Agent’s”) power to act in your best interest.

6. Can I add personal instructions to my Living Will?

Yes. Personal instructions may be added to the section titled “Other Directions.” If there are specific treatments you wish to refuse that are not already listed on the document, you may list them here. Also, instructions such as “I want maximum pain medications, even if it hastens my death,” “I do not want to be placed in a nursing home,” or “I want to die at home” can be added to this section. If you have appointed a Spokesperson (“Agent”), it is a good idea to include a statement such as, “Any questions about how to interpret or when to apply my Living Will are to be decided by my Spokesperson, my ‘Agent.’”

7. What are Life-Sustaining Treatment such as Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), Mechanical Ventilation, and artificial nutrition and hydration?
Refer to the section on Life-Sustaining Treatment for a detailed explanation of life-sustaining treatments.

8. What if I change my mind about my New York Health Care Proxy or Living Will?
You may revoke your New York Health Care Proxy or Living Will by notifying your health care provider or Spokesperson (“Agent”) orally or in writing of your revocation, or by any other act that clearly shows your intent to revoke the document. Once informed, your physician must record the revocation in your medical record and notify your Spokesperson (“Agent”) and any medical staff responsible for your care. Additionally, an updated form voids any previous forms.

9. If I spend extended periods of time in another state, will my New York Advance Care Planning Forms be honored in that state?
Each state has its own laws governing Advance Care Planning and the use of Health Care Proxy forms, Living Wills and DNR Orders. Therefore, it is important that you investigate that state’s laws on Advance Care Planning. You may want to begin by going to the web site of the Department of Health of that particular state or visiting Caring Connections, a website created by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO)

10. Are there any restrictions on who can be my Spokesperson (“Agent”)?
Your Spokesperson (“Agent”) cannot be:
  • An operator, administrator or employee of a health care facility in which you are a resident or patient, or to which you have applied for admission, at the time you sign your proxy, unless that person is a relative by blood, marriage or adoption;
  • A physician, if that person also acts as your attending physician.
11. What do I do if I am a resident in a facility licensed or operated by the Office of Mental Health or the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities?
Special witnessing requirements exist for residents of facilities operated or licensed by the Office of Mental Health or the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. For more information, contact the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring excellent end-of-life care, 800-989-9455

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