HEALTH CARE DECISIONS BILL PASSES

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In 2006, Lloyd Luntz, stepson of East Side resident Carol Rinzler, was admitted to a Philadelphia hospital with lung cancer that would eventually kill him. Luntz never signed a form that allowed family members to access medical records, forcing Rinzler and her husband, Perry Luntz, to battle doctors to get any information about their son’s condition.

“That period of trying to get information about his condition was horrible,” Rinzler said.

A new law, the Family Health Care Decisions Act, attempts to address this situation. The bill would allow families and friends of medical patients to be involved in health-care decisions for loved ones who have been judged incapable of making such decisions by a physician.

The State Senate passed the bill Feb. 24, 17 years after it was introduced, and it is now awaiting Gov. David Paterson’s signature. State Sen. Tom Duane and Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, chairs of their respective chambers’ health committees, authored the legislation. Currently, New York law requires “clear and convincing evidence,” such as a living will, to allow decisions to be made on patients’ behalf.

“This is vitally important legislation that protects those who are incapacitated and powerless,” Duane said in a statement. “The [legislation] eliminates the uncertainty that care-givers face when a patient is no longer able to make decisions for him or herself, assuring that the best interests of that individual are respected.”

Rinzler praised the bill as a way to get crucial health information about a family member.

“They’ve made it possible for families to deal with bad situations,” she said.

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