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 medical treatment.

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 1876.


Contact: Lise Bang-Jensen
Director of Media Services & Public Affairs