More than 80 percent of adults believe that it is important to put their wishes about end-of-life care in writing, according to a recent report, but only one out of four does so.

A survey of 1,700 adults released in 2012 by the California HealthCare Foundation illustrated the substantial gap between attitudes and actions when it comes to end-of-life planning. While most people place a high value on dying peacefully and without pain, few take the steps necessary to ensure that their wishes are fulfilled when the time comes; about 76 percent of adults surveyed said they had not prepared an advance directive, American Medical News reported.

Perhaps not surprisingly, part of the issue may be that the topic is simply uncomfortable for many people, causing them to put it off – often until it is too late. About a quarter of those surveyed said that they were reluctant to talk about death or dying, while 3 percent said they had not thought about their end-of-life wishes. Only 8 percent reported being asked by a physician about their preferences for end-of-life care.

Advance directives in New York

Advance directives are documents that lay out your wishes in the event that you are unable to speak for yourself. In New York, there are three main types of advance directives:

  • Living will: A living will contains written instructions about your end-of-life health care preferences, including details about the types of care you do or do not wish to receive.
  • Health care proxy: A health care proxy authorizes someone else to make important decisions about your care in the event that you cannot make them yourself. This person is called your health care agent.
  • Do not resuscitate (DNR) order: A DNR can be used to communicate your wishes not to undergo emergency treatment to restart your heart or lungs should they stop working.

Depending on your wishes, you may choose to use any or all of these options. Many New Yorkers opt to create a living will in conjunction with a health care proxy, regardless of whether they also want a DNR. This is because a living will, no matter how detailed, cannot account for every possible situation that may arise. Therefore, it is wise to use a health care proxy to appoint someone you trust to carry out your wishes under unanticipated circumstances.

Your health care agent will have authority to make decisions on your behalf only if you become incapacitated or unable to communicate your wishes. In addition, it is up to you to decide how much authority to give your health care agent; you may allow him or her to make all decisions about your care, or only certain ones.

Contact an attorney for assistance

For more information about advance directives and end-of-life care in New York, and for help ensuring that your wishes are carried out, contact an experienced estate planning lawyer in your area.