State Health Commissioner Novello Urges New Yorkers to Protect Their Decision-Making Power with Health Care Proxy

ALBANY, March 25, 2005 - In light of the national public interest generated by the Terri Schiavo case in the State of Florida, State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H., today urged all New Yorkers to protect their decision-making power by completing a health care proxy to legally designate someone they trust to make health care decisions on their behalf if they are unable to do so.

Commissioner Novello also encouraged New Yorkers to visit the State Health Department's web site at www.health.ny.gov to learn more about a health care proxy and to download the proxy form. Information and forms are available in four languages: English, Chinese, Russian and Spanish.

Dr. Novello said, "The Terri Schiavo case is a tragic situation for all involved. Regardless of your personal beliefs on the complex legal and medical issues raised by this case, a health care proxy will help protect you and your loved ones from facing similar trying circumstances."

A health care proxy allows individuals to designate another person as their "agent," with the authority to make health care decisions for them. The proxy can be written to give the agent as much or as little authority as the individual desires, including removing or providing life-sustaining treatments. It is recommended that an agent and an alternate agent be designated.

Individuals may choose any adult (18 years of age or older), including a family member or close friend to serve as a health care proxy agent. If a doctor is chosen as the agent by a person, he or she cannot also serve as the health care provider to the patient. Appointing a health care agent is voluntary and is a decision that should be made by each person to better plan for potential contingencies in cases of changes in their health status that leave them incapacitated.

In the last week alone, the number of visits to the health care proxy page of the Department's web site has increased ten fold from 1,400 to 14,200.