Everyone over the age of 18 needs to appoint a health care agent (Health Care Proxy). There are two situations in which a health care agent will be needed:
- Temporary inability to make health care decisions – no matter what your age is. For example, you are having an outpatient surgical procedure and are under general anesthesia. Something unexpected happens and a health care decision needs to be made. If you have a health care agent, since you are temporarily unable to make your own decisions, the health care agent may make the decision. Once you become conscious again, the health care agent would no longer have any authority to act;
- Permanent inability to make health care decisions – this would arise if you were comatose from a terminal illness, in a persistent vegetative state, suffered from an illness that left you unable to communicate or, if elderly, suffered from senile dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Under these circumstances you would obviously be unable to make your own health care decisions. If you don't have a health care agent, all appropriate medical treatments will be provided to you. If you have appointed a health care agent, your health care agent can be your voice and make your health care decisions according to your own wishes, or your best interests.
The above information was taken from the NYS Department of Health Website.