Advanced Directives

Advance directives are verbal or written instructions that are valuable in the event of an incapacitating illness or injury. One type of advance directive is a Healthcare Proxy. The New York State Healthcare Proxy Law allows you to appoint someone you trust to make health care decisions for you if you lose the ability to make those decisions yourself. You may give the person you select as your health care agent as little or as much authority as you want. You may also give your agent instructions that he or she has to follow. The following frequently asked questions can help in understanding the importance of a Healthcare Proxy.

Q: Why should I choose a healthcare agent?
A: If you become unable, even temporarily, to make health care decisions, someone else must make your healthcare decisions for you. Appointing an agent lets you control your medical treatment.

Q: How do I appoint a healthcare agent?
A: All competent adults can appoint a healthcare agent by signing a form called a Healthcare Proxy.

Q: When would my health care agent begin to make healthcare decisions for me?
A: Your health care agent would begin to make healthcare decisions after your doctor decides that you are not able to make your own healthcare decisions.

Q: Why do I need to appoint a healthcare agent if I'm young and healthy?
A: A healthcare agent can act on your behalf if you become even temporarily unable to make your own healthcare decisions (such as might occur if you are under general anesthesia or have become comatose because of an accident).

Q: How will my healthcare agent make decisions?
A: Your agent must follow your wishes, as well as your moral and religious beliefs. Having an open and frank discussion about your wishes with your healthcare agent will put him or her in a better position to serve your interests.

Q: What if I change my mind?
A: It is easy to cancel your Healthcare Proxy, to change the person you have chosen as your healthcare agent or to change any instructions or limitations you have included on the form.

Forms and further information are available at, or from your physician or the Unity Hospital Social Work department at 585.723.7160.