Legislation to enable a patient's family member to make health care decisions when the patient is not able to do so was unanimously approved by the Assembly Health Committee today. The Family Health Care Decisions Act advanced to the Codes Committee for review before it proceeds to a vote on the Assembly Floor.
Each year, about 75,000 people die in New York without a health care proxy and lacking the capacity to make their own health care decisions.
"The Family Health Care Decisions Act is about people who are sick and dying, unable to make their own health care decisions," said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, chair of the Assembly Health Committee and author of the bill, A.7729-C. "Under New York law, a spouse, domestic partner, or other family member has no legal authority to make those decisions. And because they have no decision-making role, Federal law makes it difficult for doctors to even share medical information with them to get their advice."
"Some incapacitated patients are denied appropriate treatment, while others are subjected to burdensome treatments that violate their wishes, values, or religious beliefs," Gottfried added.
A decision to place a patient in hospice care - which means switching from acute care to palliative care - is one of those decisions. If the patient is one of the 75,000 with no signed health care proxy, and did not previously provide 'clear and convincing evidence' of his or her wishes, in New York there is no legal way to get that patient into hospice care.
The bill is sponsored in The Senate by Senate Health Committee chair Thomas K. Duane.
The bill is supported by: the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of NY State, the American Cancer Society, the NY State Breast Cancer Network, the Cerebral Palsy Association of NY State, the NY Academy of Medicine, the NY Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, the NY Civil Liberties Union, the New York State Right to Life Committee, Empire State Pride Agenda, 1199/SEIU, Statewide Senior Action Council, the Medical Society of the State of NY, the NY State Nurses Association, the Healthcare Association of NY State, Family Planning Advocates of New York, the NY City Bar Association, and the NY State Bar Association. The bill was originally drafted by the Governor's Task Force on Life and the Law.