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Medical decisions now allowed without proxies

ALBANY — New York Gov. David A. Paterson on Tuesday afternoon signed a bill giving family, guardians or partners the power to make medical decisions for incapacitated patients — even if the patient never signed paperwork detailing their wishes.

Lawmakers say only 20 percent of patients have signed proxies, complicating decisions on care, especially for the terminally ill. That can mean extended suffering for some patients.

Decisions now will be based on a patient’s best interests, including their moral or religious beliefs.

Before stopping life-sustaining treatment, two doctors must independently conclude a patient isn’t expected to live for six more months, regardless of whether treatment is provided.

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