Is there a difference between Advance Care Directives for Health and a Health Care Proxy? Do I need more than the proxy if I become sick?

Beth’s Answer:

First, let’s define what a health care proxy is and does.

The Health Care Proxy (also called “agent”) has the authority to make all types of health care decisions for you, including your end of life decisions, when a medical professional determines you lack the mental capacity to make informed medical choices about your own care.

A Health Care Proxy form is available at no charge from the NY State Dept. of Health and the NYS Bar Association websites [click links]. Your lawyer can also prepare the document.

While New York State [NYS] does not have a Living Will law, some individuals write their own to express their wishes if their end of life treatment decisions – such as whether to allow feeding tubes – must be made by the proxy.

The Health Care Proxy and Living Will are often called Advance Care Directives for Health.

NYS also has the MOLST Program [Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment]. A NYS licensed physician signs the  MOLST pink medical form, which communicates your wishes about life sustaining treatment such as CPR or DNR, intubation, mechanical ventilation, feeding tubes, future hospitalization and antibiotics.

The importance of MOLST is that once signed by the physician, it must be followed by all health care professionals at all sites where you receive care – home, nursing home and hospital. It must also be followed by EMS personnel who are called to provide health care services at your home. This is not the case with a Living Will.

Typically, the MOLST is used by persons with advanced progressive chronic illness or terminal illness towards the end of their life so that their wishes are known and followed by all health care professionals who provide care to them in the community, hospital, nursing home and their own home.

We suggest you discuss MOLST with your physician to see whether it is appropriate for you.

The health care proxy is important for persons of all ages.

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