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Total Life Choices (TLC) provides free legal services to promote and protect the dignity of each individual.  TLC attorneys and volunteers empower individuals in articulating and documenting crucial lifetime, incapacity, and end-of-life choices through education and legal planning.  TLC counsels families on complex court procedures for probate, administration and guardianship.



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Total Life Choices (TLC)
New York Legal Assistance Group
7 Hanover Square, 18th Floor
New York, NY 10004

Phone: (212) 613-5000
Fax: (212) 714-7402


Q:How do I know what service I need?

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Q: What is a health care Advance Directive?

A: A Healthcare Advance Directive is a legal document that allows a person to make their health care choices known in advance of an incapacitating illness or injury. Although laws vary from state to state in the US, there are three main types of directives:

  • A Living Will is a legal document in which you state the kind of health care you want or don't want in the event you become very ill and there is no reasonable chance of recovery.


  • A Health Care Proxy is a legal document in which you name someone you trust to make decisions about your health care in the event you cannot communicate your own decisions.


  • A DNR or Do Not Resuscitate Order is a legal document in which you refuse cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the event you suffer from cardiac arrest.

Q: Why do I need a Healthcare Advance Directive?

A: Healthcare Advance Directives give you a voice in decisions about your medical care when you are unconscious or too ill to communicate. As long as you are able to express your own decisions, your Advance Directive will not be used and you can accept or refuse any medical treatment. But if you are unconscious or become seriously ill, you may lose the ability to participate in decisions about your own treatment and that is when your Healthcare Advance Directives are important. If you do not appoint a health care agent, New York State law provides that a spouse/domestic partner, adult child, parent, sibling or close friend can act as your decision-maker, however, you should not forfeit your opportunity to document your choice of agent and provide him or her with the information needed to make decisions according to your wishes. To ensure your instructions are followed, you should choose an agent by completing your Healthcare Advance Directives and inform your agent about your wishes.

Q: Should an individual have both a Health Care Proxy and a Living Will?

A: Not necessarily. You can have a Health Care Proxy that names a health care agent and a Living Will to help guide the agent in making decisions consistent with your wishes. We recommend that all individuals over the age of 18 complete a Health Care Proxy and discuss their medical wishes with their agent. Individuals who do not have anyone to name as their agent should complete a Living Will and be as specific as possible about their medical preferences. Whatever you decide, your Advance Directive(s) should be easily accessible. That's why we recommend registering your documents with the U.S. Living Will Registry®, so that they are included in a secure online database, readily accessible when needed.

Q: I already have a DNR, do I need any other Advance Directives?

A: Yes. A Do Not Resuscitate order (DNR) only addresses Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) but not other life-sustaining methods like tube feeding, surgery, antibiotics and artificial hydration. Health Care Proxies and Living Wills address a wider range of situations and life-sustaining methods including CPR.

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Total Life Choices provides free legal education seminars and trainings on legal planning to community groups and medical and social service professionals. To schedule a TLC presentation, contact Tina Janssen-Spinosa, Esq. at (212) 613-5062 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


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