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November 2018 | Around the ABA

Free ABA guide: Help your clients on advance directives

The research on advance care planning tells us that adults are just as likely to talk to their lawyer about advance directives as to their doctor. But, the problem that arises is that lawyers and medical professionals work in distinct practice silos. They each see the planning through a different lens.

To help smooth these relationships, the ABA Commission on Law and Aging has released "The Advance Directives: Counseling Guide for Lawyers". It details best practices, a counseling checklist for lawyers and eight principles to guide patients and clients through the advance care planning process.

“The guide bridges the chasm between lawyers and clinicians by helping lawyers provide guidance more in alignment with the clinical and family realities that clients will face,” said Charlie Sabatino, director of the Commission on Law and Aging and one of the authors of the guide. “The guide’s checklist can be seamlessly incorporated into the workflow of any law practice that assists clients in the preparation of advance directives.”

The checklist is an itemized listing of what is expected of lawyers throughout the advance care directive process, including:

  • What to do prior to the initial meeting (a questionnaire filled out by the client should include queries such as, has the client ever signed an organ donor card?)

  • Drafting tips (experience shows the longer the advance directive, the less likely it is to be consulted)

  • Recommendations for after the advance directive is signed (lawyers should get the client’s permission to send a copy of it with a cover letter to the primary care physician and other known specialists)

The guide also offers links to self-help tools lawyers can provide to clients to help them understand and plan for the kinds of decisions they will face in planning for their future health decisions.

“Advance directives too often do not have the intended effect on end-of-life decisions,” said Louraine Arkfeld, chair of the Commission on Law and Aging. “Too often they lack relevant guidance. This guide, developed with both legal and medical health care professionals, will enable lawyers to craft advanced care planning documents that are effective in clinical decision-making when it counts.”

To download the guide, click here

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