NEW YORK NURSE: April 2010
by Mark Genovese
NYSNA took part in a press conference March 16 to celebrate the signing into law by Gov. David Paterson of the Family Healthcare Decision Act. The law will allow healthcare decisions to be made for patients who lack both capacity and an appointed proxy.
“An inestimable number of New Yorkers have not executed a proxy form,” said Tina Gerardi, NYSNA CEO, during the bill signing ceremony at Albany Memorial Hospital.
“The Nurses Association believes they should have no less protection by the law, no less compassion by the courts, and no less care from healthcare providers than those who already have appointed a proxy. State law must protect the rights of all patients, ensuring they can live with dignity and receive care consistent with their own wishes and beliefs.”
This law includes a system of guidelines that are designed to reach a decision that the patient would have wanted. It takes into the highest account the religious, ethical, and philosophical attitudes of the patient towards treatment – including life-sustaining procedures.
The law also recognizes the makeup of today’s families, including “non-traditional” families. For some patients, there is no family member or caring friend able to make such decisions. In such cases, the law allows decisions to be made by a committee with input from patient care providers.
“We are most pleased that the law clearly recognizes the role of registered nurses in the care team,” Gerardi said, “and stipulates that any recommendations from the nurses who care for a patient must be included in the surrogate decision making process.”
The Nurses Association recommends that the law be amended in the near future to expand the definition of “attending physician” to include the patient’s personal healthcare provider. This is because there are many instances where an “attending” may actually be a nurse practitioner, midwife, or other authorized healthcare professional.
“Enactment of this law is a humane way to establish a standard and a process for making decisions for patients without capacity,” Gerardi added. “This law extends protections to patients and allows nurses to deliver care in a manner consistent with the patient’s wishes and beliefs. The nursing community cannot ask for more than that. We applaud the Governor for signing this long-awaited bill into law.”