family decisions coalition Putting family health care decisions into the hands of families 80 State Street, 11th Floor Albany, New York 12207 Ph: (518) 449-3359 / Fax: (518) 449-5788 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Jessica Schafroth, 518-449-3359 FROM: The Family Decisions Coalition Family Decisions Coalition Applauds Governor Paterson for Signing the Family Health Care Decisions Act Advocates Worked for 17 years on Effort March 16, 2010 (Albany) - The Family Decisions Coalition applauds Governor David Paterson for signing the Family Health Care Decisions Act (FHCDA) today. It passed the Assembly in January and the Senate a month later. Advocates for the bill have worked for almost two decades on the legislation and are pleased with the Governor’s support and leadership on this issue. “By signing FHCDA into law today, Governor Paterson is giving countless families across the state peace of mind at an otherwise difficult time in their lives. We are grateful to the Governor, Senator Duane, Assemblyman Gottfried and the many advocates who worked to make this day a reality after 17 years,” said Barbara Shack, Chair of the Family Decisions Steering Committee and Member of the NYS Task Force on Life and the Law. The Family Health Care Decisions Act grants a patient's family member or close friend the legal authority to make medical treatment decisions for the patient in the event the patient loses capacity to make such decisions personally, and did not leave prior instructions or appoint a health care agent. The family member or close friend would also have the authority to choose palliative care or less aggressive care for a dying patient, when clinical criteria are met and the decision would reflect the patient's wishes. “Most people already believe that their family member or close friend can make these kinds of decisions for them, if they had to,” Shack added. “And indeed in most states, that is the case. But it has not been the case in New York. The FHCDA will reform that.” New York had been one of only a few states without a similar provision until now. The Coalition also extends its gratitude to both Legislative bill sponsors - Senator Thomas Duane and Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried – whose extraordinary leadership and dedication helped make the law a reality in New York State. Until today, New York law has been especially burdensome for persons near the end of life. Under previous law, not even a court could have decided to forego life-sustaining measures for patients without capacity, unless the patient had signed a health care proxy or left “clear and convincing evidence” of his or her wishes. These strict requirements left thousands of patients at risk of receiving burdensome, extended treatments that violate their wishes, values, or religious beliefs each year. The FHCDA was originally proposed by the NYS Task Force on Life and the Law in 1993. “The principles in the FHCDA reflect good medical practice,” said Art Levin, Director of the Center for Medical Consumer and another member of the Steering Committee. “Now that FHCDA is enacted, the law in New York will finally support those good medical practices.” The Family Decisions Coalition is an affiliation of about 100 organizations that have long been advocating for the FHCDA. The Coalition includes patient rights organizations, health care providers, bar associations, medical groups, and civic and religious organizations.