It has been 17 years since this bill was first introduced.
The New York State Senate will pass the Family Health Care Decisions Act (FHCDA), setting forth clear guidelines for family members and others close to the patient to make medical decisions for incapacitated patients. It will also provide physicians with uniform protocols to follow. In many instances there will continue to be confusion and concern for the rights of the patient. Diligent and thoughtful efforts will be needed to apply these guidelines properly. The following are some of the important points for clinicians:
If there is disagreement about whether the individual lacks decision-making capacity, the matter is referred to the hospital or nursing home ethics committee for resolution.
The FHCDA directs the surrogate to make decisions in accordance with the patient’s wishes, including the patient’s religious and moral beliefs.
A surrogate may withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment for an individual if that individual will die within six months with or without treatment, as determined by two independent physicians, and treatment would be an extraordinary burden to the patient.
A surrogate may also withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment if the patient has an irreversible condition, as determined by two independent physicians, and treatment would involve such pain, suffering, or other burden that it would be inhumane or extraordinarily burdensome to provide treatment under the circumstances.
For Individuals Without a Surrogate:
The attending physician to act as surrogate for routine medical treatment.
For major medical treatment, a physician may act only upon the concurrence of another physician that such major medical treatment is necessary.
A physician may withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment for individuals without a surrogate only upon the independent concurrence of another physician that life-sustaining treatment offers no medical benefit to the patient because the patient will die imminently and the provision of life-sustaining treatment would violate accepted medical standards.