You are young and healthy…but you still need a Health Care Proxy!! A Health Care Proxy is the document which names the person that you want to make health care decisions for you in the event that you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. As Elder Law Attorneys, many of our clients are seniors and can recognize the value and importance of executing advanced directives. Many of our clients, even if reluctantly, are able to envision a time when they may no longer have capacity to make decisions for themselves and see the importance of naming a loved one to make those decisions in their place. In our practice, we typically advise our patients to execute a Health Care Proxy, an accompanying HIPPA release form; this is a companion document to the Health Care Proxy and it allows your named agent access to your medical records. We also offer our clients the option of executing a Living Will. The Living Will is the document which states that in the event that you are suffering from an incurable injury, disease or illness, and it has been determined that the application of life-sustaining procedures would serve only to artificially prolong the dying process, you would not want to be kept alive artificially. These documents together are referred to as advanced healthcare directives.
I am here to tell you that you are never too young to execute these advanced healthcare directives. The privacy rules that are set forth under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act state that health information should remain private, and only when we have consented to our private health information being released should it be shared with others, even with spouses and immediate family. For this reason, each one of us, no matter our age or our health should execute advanced directives to ensure that the person who we choose is the one who is making decisions for us in the event that we are unable, and that they have access to that private health information when we are unable to advocate on our own behalf. In New York, a Health Care Proxy directs the named agent to make decisions in accordance with the wishes of the person who is executing the Health Care Proxy. For that reason, it is important to have a conversation with the person that you have named as your Agent so that they are clear on exactly what your wishes are. Unfortunately, we never know when illness will strike, make sure that you and your loved ones are protected, execute your advanced directives now, the best thing that can happen is that you will never have to use them. Oftentimes, people ask me: “really, how important are these documents?” My answer to them is “not at all until you need them, and then when you do, they are the most important piece of paper that you have ever signed.”
Posted by Robin Daleo