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March 01, 2012

Inside the Commission

New Publication

The ABA Commission on Law and Aging released a new free booklet offering a simple durable power of attorney for health care, designed to meet the legal requirements in nearly all states.


Giving Someone a Power of Attorney for Your Health Care: A Guide with an Easy-to-Use Legal Form for All Adults can be described as “bare bones” because it doesn’t provide specific instructions about medical treatments, as most standardized health care advance directive forms do. Instead, it provides solely for the appointment of a health care agent with broad health-care decision-making authority.


A premise of the publication is that the guidance one gives an agent more effectively comes from having focused conversations with the agent and loved ones over time. There are a growing number of guides available on how to have those discussions and clarify one’s values and treatment goals, which, in fact, will change over time as one’s health and level of functioning change. Our Web page provides a resource list of many of those guides at:


The unique feature of the new form is that it complies with state legal requirements for a valid power of attorney for health care in almost every state. Only five states have laws so inflexible and cumbersome that the bare bones power will not work: Indiana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin. Accomplishing near universality required a major research effort and the assistance of legal counsel from several states. Users of the form will notice that the instructions for who can serve as one’s health care agent and who must witness the document are fairly detailed and extensive. That’s because state law requirements vary considerably, so combining all those requirements into one form results in a longer list of requirements than exist in any one state.


—Charles P. Sabatino, Director

ABA Commission on Law and Aging


Inside the ABA

In 2011, the members of the Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law elected to change the group’s name to the Commission on Disability Rights (CDR). The Commission’s new name reflects its retooled mission to carry out an array of projects and activities addressing disability-related public policy, disability law, and the professional needs of lawyers and law students with disabilities.

The CDR works (1) to promote the ABA’s commitment to justice and the rule of law for persons with mental, physical, and sensory disabilities, and (2) to promote their full and equal participation in the legal profession.

The CDR advocates for the legal rights of persons with disabilities, seeking to eliminate the obstacles created by stigma and prejudice based on stereotypes and to ensure equal opportunities and equal rights for them to work, be educated, live independently, make their own decisions, have access to governmental services, private businesses, and places of public accommodation, and be free of discrimination, abuse, and neglect. The CDR’s new programs and initiatives will help increase awareness that civil rights encompass the rights of persons with disabilities.

Of equal importance, CDR, in keeping with the ABA’s role as the national representative of the legal profession and its longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion in the profession, is committed to eliminating bias, enhancing diversity, and advancing the full and equal participation of law students and lawyers with disabilities in the profession. Our goal is to make disability a vital component of all diversity programs, events, and activities and to support law firms and other legal employers, state and local bars, and law schools in their diversity and inclusion efforts.

As the CDR moves into its next generation of service, we hope you will join us and be part of our community of advocacy, education, working for and advancing the interests of persons with disabilities.

—Amy L. Allbright, J.D., Director
ABA Commission on Disability Rights