The New York Health Care Proxy Law allows you, as a competent adult, to appoint another person as your “agent” or “attorney in fact” to make decisions for you regarding your health care in the event you lose your decision-making capacity at some point in the future. You may also appoint a successor agent(s) in the event your appointed agent becomes unable to act on your behalf. The Health Care Proxy comes into effect at some time in the future if you become incapacitated and unable to effectively communicate. The health care proxy can be general and apply to all medical decisions, or it can impose limitations and contain specific instructions. It is crucial that you appoint a person(s) you trust and who will act on your behalf in making your health care decisions in accordance with your wishes. 

A Health Care Proxy is far broader than a Do Not Resuscitate Order. The Health Care Proxy authorizes your appointed agent in case of your incapacity to direct all of your treatment and health care decisions in accordance with your wishes. 

The New York State statute allows for the appointment of only one agent, with an alternate agent(s) if the person you appointed is unable, unwilling, or unavailable to act as your health care agent when needed. Two agents should not be named jointly. You as principal should sign the Health Care Proxy in the presence of two non-family, non-agent witnesses who must also sign and date the form.

Your agent’s authority to make health care decisions under the Health Care Proxy law is activated upon your incapacity to make your own health care decisions and your inability to effectively communicate your wishes. As long as you have capacity to make your own health care decisions and the ability to communicate these wishes, the decision-making as to your health care remains with you, and your health care agent should not be able to act on your behalf. The health care proxy can be revoked by you at any time as long as you are competent.

Your agent can make decisions in accordance with your wishes, including your religious and moral beliefs, if known to your agent, or, if your agent does not know your views, in accordance with your best interests. It is crucial that your agent know your wishes regarding artificial nutrition and hydration. Decisions regarding artificial nutrition or hydration require your agent to have specific knowledge as to what your wishes are, without which, your agent will have no authority to make these decisions on your behalf.

Originals or photocopies should be given to your physician(s), your health care agent, your alternate agent, your attorney and/or other advisors, and close family members. You should maintain the original in your “important papers file” and have extra copies on hand to provide to any new health care providers or in the event of a hospital visit. It is also recommended that you carry either a wallet card giving information about the existence and location of your health care proxy and living will or a copy of the health care proxy itself. We also recommend you keep a copy on your computer, and that you take a picture of the document on your

cellphone and send it to your agent(s) and loved ones for ease of access if they are ever needed to act for you in in an emergency. 

In New York, if a Health Care Proxy or similar document executed in another state complies with the laws of that state at the time it was drafted, the out of state health care proxy will be given full faith and credit (be honored) in New York. Correspondingly, most states generally consider valid and accept documents properly executed in another state.

What If You Change Your Mind And Want To Revoke Or Change Your Living Will Or Health Care Proxy?

Periodic reviews are important to ensure that the documents you have signed still state what your wishes now are. You can modify or revoke your Health Care Proxy or appoint a different agent at any time by destroying the document or by executing a new one. You should notify your agent, your attorney, your physician(s) and any other health care provider(s), and anyone who has a copy, verbally and in writing, of any substantive change or revocation you make.

To download a New York State Health Care Proxy, go to

*Disclaimer: The information contained on this website is provided only as general information and is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be used as a substitute for a complete review of your case by an experienced elder law attorney.  All situations differ.  By visiting this website, there is no attorney-client relationship established between you and Fern J. Finkel, Julie Stoil Fernandez, or Finkel & Fernandez, LLP.