Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, Elected Officials & Advocates Urge All New Yorkers to Sign Health Care Proxies

New York event, held on National Heath Care Decisions Day, is part of National Campaign to drawn attention to importance of signing health care proxies

New York, NY – In honor of National Healthcare Decisions Day, Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal today hosted a news conference with her colleagues in the New York State Assembly and Senate to urge all New Yorkers to sign health care proxies.

National Healthcare Decisions Day ( ) is a national campaign designed to encourage all adults to initiate an ongoing conversation with loved ones and their physicians about their health care preferences, and also select a “health care agent” to make medical decisions on their behalf in case they cannot make those decisions for themselves.

“No one wants to spend a Sunday afternoon planning for the sudden onset of catastrophic illness or end of life decisions,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan), “but as difficult as these conversations are, having them when you are healthy may save you and your loved ones heartache in the event of an illness. Just as one would discuss finances or child care, it is critical that all New Yorkers engage in an open and honest dialogue with their loved ones about health care preferences and appoint a trusted family member or friend to make those decisions if and when one can no longer do so for oneself,” says Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, a member of the Assembly Committee on Health and organizer of today’s press conference. “Otherwise you may receive treatment you do not want, or not get treatment you do want.”

Health Care Proxies

A health care proxy is a document that allows a patient to designate another person, or agent, to make health care decisions on their behalf if the individual is incapable of doing so. Anyone 18 and over is encouraged to designate a health care proxy (health care agent) to be his or her spokesperson and to have a conversation with that person, loved ones and physicians about goals of care. After those discussions, and following the completion of the health care proxy, copies should be given to your loved ones and physicians so that your wishes are clear and on the record.

Free planning tools and information

New Yorkers can obtain a free health care proxy form and instructions on how to complete it on the New York State Department of Health website at: . You do not need an attorney to fill out a health care proxy form.

Additional tools are available free online at Compassion and Support Web site. The site has informational videos, practical issues to consider and family discussion tips, guidelines for choosing a spokesperson, downloadable Health Care Proxy, Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST) forms, and a free planning booklet that describes Five Easy Steps to follow.

The need is great

A 2008 survey conducted by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield showed that nearly nine of 10 upstate New Yorkers surveyed across 39 counties said it is important to have someone close to them making medical care decisions on their behalf if they were to have an irreversible terminal condition and were unable to communicate or make decisions. Yet, only 42 percent had designated a health care proxy to ensure their wishes are actually carried out.

“Every New Yorker should complete a health care proxy. It’s the only way to ensure that your health care wishes are respected, should you ever lose the ability to make them yourself,” said Senator Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn)

"I applaud Assemblymember Rosenthal in her effort to encourage New Yorkers to communicate their health care preferences with their loved ones and execute a health care proxy. Too often, these health care decisions are put off and are never finalized. These choices can have life or death consequences for the patient and their family. I strongly urge my constituents and all New Yorkers to sit down with their families, loved ones, and physicians to make these crucial advance care planning decisions now and not later," said Assemblyman Alan Maisel (D-Brooklyn)

“While these are difficult conversations to have, most people want their family members to know what their healthcare wishes are so they receive all the care they want, but only the care they want,” said David Leven, Executive Director of Compassion & Choices of New York.

“Most people, at some point, will lose the ability to make health care decisions, so it is essential that health care proxies are prepared in advance,” said Patricia Bomba, MD, vice president and medical director geriatrics for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield and chair of the National Healthcare Decision Day New York State Coalition.