HEALTH CARE AGENTS, NOT AMBULANCE DRIVERS, SHOULD
DECIDE PATIENTS’ HOSPITAL CHOICE, SAYS STATE BAR ASSOCIATION
Many New Yorkers have signed health care proxy statements that
designate a relative or friend as an agent to make medical decisions for
them if they are unable to communicate. What may surprise them is that,
because of a recent court ruling, their agent could be prohibited from
directing an ambulance driver to their preferred hospital.
"The New York State Bar Association urges the Legislature to amend
the Public Health law so that the wishes of an unconscious patient can
be respected. This is especially important when a patient previously was
treated at a particular hospital where doctors are familiar with his or
her medical history," said State Bar President Seymour W. James, Jr. of
New York City (The Legal Aid Society).
Assemblyman Charles D. Lavine (D-Nassau County) and Senator John A.
DeFrancisco (R-Onondaga County) have introduced a bill (A-8389 and
S-5014-A) that would permit an individual designated as a health care
agent to make decisions about transporting a patient to a particular
hospital, mental hygiene facility or residential health care facility
when the patient is unconscious or unresponsive. It would not apply in
cases involving major medical trauma when a patient requires immediate
The proposed legislation addresses a 2009 federal court decision
(Stein v. County of Nassau, et al.) that found that--when
outside of a hospital or other medical institution—a health care
agent does not have authority to direct where a patient is transported.
The court said the state law requires that the agent must first consult
a medical professional.
This legislative proposal was developed by the State Bar
Association’s Elder Law Section.
The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest
voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in
NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION, ONE ELK STREET, ALBANY, NY 12207 PH: (518) 463-3200 SECURE FX: (518) 463-5993