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“Bare Bones” Health Care Power of Attorney Now Available in Most States


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“Bare Bones” Health Care Power of Attorney Now Available in Most States

By Daniel Buchanan

WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 20, 2011 – The American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging has released a free new publication in time for the holidays, offering a simple, durable power of attorney for health care that meets the legal requirements in all but five states.  The “bare bones” approach provides solely for the appointment of a health care agent with broad decision-making authority.

With families together during this season and New Year’s resolutions right around the corner, the holidays provide a good opportunity to talk about important life decisions.

Existing health care power of attorney forms in most states are saturated with legal terms that generally discourage people from completing them.  Other advance directives go into the details of end-of-life instructions.  The new guide, however, requires the individual to simply do three things: 1) Think carefully about whom you want as your health care agent; 2) Provide guidance for the agent to make treatment decisions for you; and 3) Fill out the form and sign in the presence of two witnesses.

“The new booklet and form focuses on the single most important legal task—that of appointing a health care ‘agent’ or ‘proxy’ with the authority to make all health care decisions for you if you’re unable to speak for yourself,” said Jeff Snell, chair of the ABA Commission on Law and Aging.  “By focusing on this one task, some (but not all) of the barriers in state law are avoided.”

State laws make it nearly impossible to have a national advance directive, but the ABA has developed a guide that is applicable in every state with the exceptions of Indiana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin.

The publication, Giving Someone a Power of Attorney for Your Health Care: A Guide with an Easy-to-Use Legal Form for All Adults, was made possible by grants from the Archstone Foundation and the California HealthCare Foundation.  It is available for free online in both English and Spanish versions.

Since every adult approaches health care decision-making differently, having various options is the key to making sure people actually complete the process.  For example, another widely used option is the Five Wishes advance directive, produced by the group Aging with Dignity.  Five Wishes provides detailed guidance on a wide range of end-of-life health and personal matters. Through its new easy-to-use form, the ABA provides another option for easing the health care decision-making process.

With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world.  As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.

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