Position Statement – 2010
A.7729D (Gottfried) / S.3164B (Duane)
Family Health Care Decision Act
The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York strongly supports the Family Health Care Decision Act (A.7729-D, Gottfried / S.3164-B, Duane) (FHCDA). The legislation gives families and loved ones the right to decide about treatment for patients who no longer have capacity, and have not executed an advance directive or left clear and convincing evidence of their wishes. Decisions would have to be based on the patient’s wishes or, if the patient’s wishes are unknown, the patient’s best interests. The Act contains numerous safeguards to promote good decisions and protect patients’ rights. This is an excellent bill that supports and empowers families, especially women who are usually the primary caregivers for their loved ones.
Patient self-determination has long been recognized as a fundamental health right. People with capacity have a right to make decisions themselves to accept or reject treatment. It is now time to also recognize the right of loved ones to make these important decisions when patients can no longer do so. This is good not only for the patient but for women, families, and caregivers of patients as well.
Thousands of people die in New York State every year and suffer needlessly because critically important health care decisions cannot be made by loved ones for patients who could no longer make these decisions. In the absence of legal authorization for family members that this legislation would provide, in many instances dying people are given inappropriately aggressive and invasive treatment, even if such treatment is burdensome. Women are at high risk for such treatments due to their living longer than men and their increasing frailty over the lifespan.
Fewer than 30% of New Yorkers have completed a health care proxy. This bill would, finally after 18 years, grant protection to so many of us who do not have a proxy and enable our loved ones to make the full range of decisions about our medical care. These are decisions which should be made by those closest to the patient.
Enactment of the Family Health Care Decisions Act is long overdue.