April 21, 2021

Health Care Decision-Making

Featured Resources

Mind Your Loved Ones

Mind Your Loved Ones

The perfect 'just in case" app!

Mind Your Loved Ones (MYLO) Smartphone App

One of the biggest problems we all experience in making decisions for loved ones is that needed information is not in our hands when needed - at the right time and at the right place.  This smartphone app solves that problem. Get more details on MYLO here. Available for iPhones and Android phones at $4.99 per year for ABA Members ($7.99 for non-members) through ABA Member Advantage. 

Advance Directives: Counseling Guide for Lawyers

Advance Directives: Counseling Guide for Lawyers

Available in the ABA Web Store

Advance Directives: Counseling Guide for Lawyers is designed to assist lawyers and health care professionals in formulating end-of-life health decision plans that are clearly written and effective. Click the link above for the FREE PFD download of the entire book or  key sections of the Guide. Order hard copies from the ABA Web store.  

Health Care Advance Planning Packet

Health Care Advance Planning Packet

Download for Free!

The Health Care Advance Planning Packet

 A trio of free resources to walk you through three advance planning steps.

  1. Tool Kit for Health Care Advance Planning helps you clarify your values, priorities, and wishes regarding your future health care.
  2. The Multi-State Health Care Power of Attorney booklet provides the key legal tool for appointing a proxy decision-maker that is valid in most states.  The form can be completed on your computer or downloaded and completed by hand.
  3. How to Make Decisions for Someone Else is a guide for your proxy, explaining the job description of a proxy and tips for making good decisions.

Consumer Information

More Health Decisions Resources

State-Specific Advance Planning Forms

Pathways to Health Care Decision Making - Factsheet detailing the six preferred ways to make healthcare choices.

Tour of State Advance Directive Registries
This summary provides thumbnail descriptions of state advance directive registries,  as of June, 2017, based solely on a review of state law and state registry web pages.

Ten Legal Tips for Caregivers
Family caregivers face a surprising mix of legal, financial, and practical issues every day. This flyer offers ten tips to help you understand and manage those issues.

Links to State-specific Advance Directive Forms - This page provides links to state-specific advance directive forms.

Sample HIPAA Right of Access Form for Family Member/Friends 
This form allows you to direct health care providers and payers to disclose and release protected health information to whomever you name.

Health and Financial Decisions: Legal Tools for Preserving Personal Autonomy
Information on powers of attorney, trusts, health care advance directives, living wills and other planning tools. 2005. Brochures are $1 each. For orders of 100 or more brochures, please paste code AGBULK100 at checkout for a discounted price of $0.50 per brochure.  (please note that the discount code will need to be copied and pasted or manually entered at checkout in order to recieve the discount)

Myths and Facts About Health Care Advance Directives
by Charlie Sabatino, Bifocal, Vol. 37, No. 1 - September 2015

Family Conversations About End-of-Life Care 
Commission Director Charles Sabatino appeared on WAMU’s Diane Rehm radio show August 8, 2012.

Additional Health Decisions Resources
This web page provides resource links to information on thinking about and discussing your goals and values, helping you draft an advance directive, helping health care agents do their jobs well, advance directive forms, advance directive registries, and general end of life resources.


  • In Your Hands: The Tools for Preserving Personal Autonomy

Narrated by the late Helen Hayes, with an epilogue by her son, James MacArthur, this video addresses the legal aspects of planning for incapacity in a clear and positive way, and introduces four legal tools: durable powers of attorney, medical powers of attorney, living wills and trusts. Continue to scroll down for the video.

  • In Your Hands: The Tools for Preserving Personal Autonomy video with Spanish subtitles.

 Lawyer Resources

Pathways to Health Care Decision-Making
Factsheet detailing the six preferred ways to make health care choices.

Advance Directives: Counseling Guide for Lawyers Using handy checklists, this brochure guides lawyers through the advance directive process and presents principles that help align legal planning with medical practice.

Health Care Decision Making in Clinical Care Settings
Report, research, findings and recommendations

Health Care Decision-Making Authority of Guardians and Agents- Does the court-appointed guardian or the patient-appointed agent have the ultimate authority over an incapacitated individual’s health care? This Bifocal article provides a brief update on the statutorily established health care decision-making authority of each state. Additionally, the article highlights the growth of decision-making standards for court-appointed guardians with health care authority and emphasizes that patient- appointed health care agents should be the final authority on an incapacitated individual’s health care. The two charts below accompany the article:

Health Care Decision-Making Authority: What is the Decision-Making Standard?

Surrogate Health Care Decision-Making for Unbefriended Patients: “Attention Must Be Paid”
Meeting presentation slides by Erica Wood (May 2015)

Incapacitated and Alone: Health Care Decision-Making for the Unbefriended Elderly
This 2003 publication is now available as a free pdf download. It presents the findings of a ground-breaking study aimed at improving medical decision-making on behalf of older patients incapable of making their own decisions and lacking surrogate decision-makers.

Third-party Resources

  • The Hastings Center Guidelines on Life-Sustaining Treatment and Care Near the End of Life 
    This edition updates and significantly expands the Center's groundbreaking comprehensive ethics guidelines first published in 1987.
  • National POLST                                                                                                                                  POLST is the national term referring to portable medical orders intended for patients who are considered to be at risk for a life-threatening clinical event because they have a serious life-limiting medical condition, which may include advanced frailty.  POLST has different names in different states but is simply called POLST at the national level.  National POLST is a collaborative of state POLST programs that has set voluntary standards and policies for the adoption and implementation of POLST by states.
  • American Bar Association and Harris Interactive Inc. 2008 Healthcare Emergency Planning Poll

Legislative Analysis  

Oral Designation of Health Decisions Surrogate Recognized by Statute (Aug. 2020)

Default Surrogate Consent Statutes (Sept. 2019)

State Health Care Power of Attorney Statutes: Selected Characteristics  (Sept. 2019)

Barriers to Universal Advance Directives by Charlie Sabatino. Published in the Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics Winter 2018 issue. 

Substitute Decision-Maker Terminology Under State Law

POLST Program Legislative Comparison Chart  (June 2017)

Orally Provided Food and Fluids and Comfort Care (July 2017)

Substitute Decision-Maker Terminology Under State Law. This chart details state-by-state terminology (where defined) for substitute decision-makers, designated substitutes, and statutory default substitutes (July 2016).

Annual Summaries

Summary of Health Care Decision Statutes Enacted in 2019

Summary of Health Care Decision Statutes Enacted in 2016-17

Summary of Health Care Decision Statutes Enacted in 2015-16

Summary of Health Care Decision Statutes Enacted in 2013-2014

Summary of Health Care Decision Statutes Enacted in 2012

Summary of Health Care Decision Statutes Enacted in 2010

Health Care Decision-Making in Clinical Settings

This research project launches a major study of how health care providers make health care decisions for patients in a clinical setting who lack capacity and have nothing in writing naming a person to make health care decisions. The research is made possible by funding from the Retirement Research Foundation. Joining the Commission in undertaking this research are the Society for Hospital Medicine and the Society for Critical Care Medicine.

Information for Physicians

POLST: The Seven Deadly Sins - This article appearing in Bifocal Vol. 39, Issue 4 discusses the missteps that undermine a patients’ informed decision-making and why health care providers should be aware of and conscientiously avoid the seven deadly sins of POLST. (April 2018)

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