National Healthcare Decisions Day is April 16

Do you know who will make health care decisions for you if you can't? Too few of us have considered advance care planning that includes Advance Directives that will appoint someone we trust with our health care if we are unable to make necessary decisions for ourselves. Whether incapacitated due to illness, disease, or a tragic accident - who do you want to make decisions for you?

New York State's Health Care Proxy Law enables individuals to appoint a health care agent such as a family member, trusted friend or loved one, to make medical decisions on their behalf should they become unable to do so. Consider the following helpful facts:

  • Too many people believe that if they have power of attorney for financial matters, they also have power of attorney for health care. These are typically separate legal documents, but sometimes are combined into one comprehensive document prepared by an attorney.

  • In New York State, a Health Care Proxy is the legal document to appoint someone you trust to make health care decisions for you in the event you cannot speak for yourself. You do not need a lawyer to complete one, however two witnesses are required to sign the Health Care Proxy.

  • Advance directives do not say, "Don't treat me." They say, "Treat me the way I want to be treated."

  • Once a person names a Health Care Proxy, it does not go into effect as long as the person retains decision making capacity.

  • Doctors and other health care providers are obligated to follow advance directives.

  • Advance directives are legal tools for anyone age 18+ - the stakes may actually be higher for younger people if tragedy strikes.

April 16 is designated as National Healthcare Decisions Day. To help raise awareness, Niagara Hospice provides information and tools for the public to talk about their wishes with family, friends and healthcare providers that will help enable them to execute written advance directives. An Advance Care Planning program is held annually in April and repeated in October in recognition of National Health Care Proxy Month.

Cheryl Ferguson, BSW, MSW and Niagara Hospice Medical Social Worker discusses Health Care Proxies, Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) and Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (MOLST).

"As a result of National Healthcare Decisions Day, many more people in our community can be expected to have thoughtful conversations about their healthcare decisions and complete reliable advance directives to make their wishes known," said Ferguson. "Fewer families and healthcare providers will have to struggle with making difficult healthcare decisions in the absence of guidance from the patient; and healthcare providers will be better equipped and able to honor patient wishes when the time comes to do so."

For more information about National Healthcare Decision Day, visit


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