Attorney Steven Getman is reminding New York families that the state's "Family Health Care Decisions Act" is now in effect.
"This law establishes the authority of a patient's family member or close friend to make health care decisions for someone who is incapacitated and cannot make his or her own medical decisions," Getman explained.
"The family member or friend would also be empowered to direct the withdrawal or withholding of life-sustaining treatment when the requirements set forth in the law are met."
The law only applies to patients who did not leave prior instructions or appoint a health care agent. Valid health care proxies and other forms of medical instructions remain in effect. New Yorkers are still encouraged to prepare a health care proxy, Getman noted.
"The proxy form can be tailored to give the agent as much or as little authority as the individual desires, and the agent must make decisions in accordance with the principal’s wishes or, if such wishes are not known, in accordance with the principal’s best interests," he said.
More information on the new law can be found here. Getman suggests that anyone with questions about the new law and how it might affect themselves or their loved ones should contact a qualified attorney of their own choosing to discuss their legal rights and responsibilities.