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Holding Court: To Your Health

(PHOTO: Rye City Court Judge Joe Latwin in his office on Monday, December 5, 2022.)
(PHOTO: Former Rye City Court Judge Joe Latwin in his old Rye City Court office on Monday, December 5, 2022.)

Holding Court is a series by retired Rye City Court Judge Joe Latwin. Latwin retired from the court in December 2022 after thirteen years of service to the City.

What topics do you want addressed by Judge Latwin? Tell us.

By Joe Latwin

What happens if you cannot make a decision about your health care? It need not be terminal – you could be under unconscious. You might need pain medicine, but you can’t say yes. Who is authorized to make that decision for you?

Since 1991, you could execute a Health Care Proxy specifying who can make healthcare decisions for you. The Health Care Proxy names an agent to make decisions to consent to or refuse a treatment, service or procedure to diagnose or treat the principal’s physical or mental condition whenever the principal is incapable of making a healthcare decision.

The Health Care Proxy is a simple document – often just one page. It needs to be signed by the principal and witnessed by two adults, neither of whom can be an agent. The Health Care Proxy may include the principal’s wishes or instructions regarding treatment, artificial nutrition and hydration, organ and tissue donation, include any limitations, and provide for the expiration of the proxy upon the cessation of a condition or at a specified time. The proxy may also specify an alternate agent to act if the original agent is unavailable.

A Health Care Proxy can be photocopied. A copy should be given to every Healthcare provider you see. The Healthcare provider will put the Health Care Proxy into your records. If you keep the original, you can make more copies to give to hospitals and providers in the future.

It is essential that the principal discuss his wishes with the proposed agents. While every situation may not be foreseeable, a general discussion of what treatments the principal would or would not want is critical for the agent to make a decision in accordance with the principal’s wishes. To be surer, you might want to create a Living Will. A Living Will does not dispose of property, instead it gives your clear and convincing evidence of your Healthcare wishes to your named agent. At least 32 States have Living Will laws that recognize New York Living Wills. Living Wills often specify what treatment the principal wants or doesn’t want. For example, you may specify “If I am in an incurable or irreversible condition with no expectation of recovery, I direct that my physician and all medical personnel to withhold or withdraw all life sustaining procedures that would serve only to artificially prolong the dying process. I do, however, ask that treatment be administered that will provide me with the maximum comfort and freedom from pain even though this may hasten the moment of my death. If the situation arises in which there is no reasonable expectation of my recovery from physical or mental disability, I request that I be allowed to die and not be kept alive by artificial means or heroic measures.” This may be what you want or you could specify that you be kept alive by all means necessary.

Of course, the best revenge is to live long and in perfect health!

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