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Speaking for you when you cannot speak for yourself
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which documents are right for me?

In New York, and most other states, there is more than one way to make your health care wishes known if you are unable to speak for yourself.

A Living Will allows you to leave written instructions that explain your health care wishes, especially about end-of-life care, should you be unable to speak for yourself in the future. You cannot use a Living Will to name a health care agent. This document is accepted as evidence of health care wishes by the New York Courts, as well as those of most other states if the proper witnessing procedures are used.

A Health Care Proxy lets you appoint a healthcare agent - that is, someone you trust to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to make decisions for yourself in the future.  It also gives you the option of listing specific health care wishes, similar to those that can be put on a living will. The health care proxy is also known as a health care agent, power of attorney for health care decisions, surrogate, health representative, and a variety of other terms depending on your state.

A Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR) only lets you express your wish to do without cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) - that is, emergency treatment to attempt to restart your heart and lungs if your heartbeat or breathing stops. A DNR document applies to your current condition, whereas both the living will and the health care proxy are ADVANCE directives that are only activated if you lose the ability to speak for yourself in the future.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Q. If you are in a coma or vegetative state or otherwise incapacitated, would you want someone you trust to make medical decisions for you?

  • If you answer Yes, because a Health Care Proxy allows you to appoint someone you trust as your to speak and decide for you when you are unable, it is probably the right choice for you
  • If you answer No, because you have no one you trust to act as your Health Care Agent, consider a Living Will so that your medical instructions are clear and can be read by your care givers when you are unable to communicate your wishes

Q. Even though you want someone you trust to make medical decisions, do you still have strongly held views about specific situations?

  • If yes, you should consider both a Living Will and a Health Care Proxy as this will provide the most detail about your wishes while allowing a trusted individual to represent these wishes.
  • If no, then maybe just a Health Care Proxy will meet your needs.

Click the links above or the "create my health care proxy / living will" buttons at left to get started!

Still have questions? Visit our Glossary/Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Section

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