October 17, 2018

New ABA tool offers lawyers, health practitioners guidelines to create improved advance directives

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17, 2018 — The research on advance care planning suggests that people talk to their lawyers and doctors about advance directives, however the two professions see the planning through a different lens. A new guide, Advance Directives: Counseling Guide for Lawyers,” by the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging, is designed to assist lawyers, doctors and those in the medical profession, in thoroughly assessing the needs of a person in the hope that the end-of-life health decisions are understood and effective.

The guide provides detailed information on how to bridge the chasm between lawyers and doctors. It helps lawyers to provide guidance more in alignment with the clinical and family realities that clients will face. The foundation for it is a set of eight principles that straddle a common platform that is important for clinicians and lawyers to guide patients and clients through the advance care planning process.

It includes, a checklist for lawyers, which offers an itemized listing of what is expected throughout the entire process, including:

  • What to do prior to the initial meeting; (It notes that the questionnaire should include questions, such as, has the client ever signed an organ donor card?)
  • Drafting tips; (According to clinical experiences, the longer the advance directive, the less likely it will be consulted.)
  • Recommendations for the post signing of the document (Lawyers should get the client’s permission to send a copy of the Advance Directive to the primary care physician and other known specialists with a cover letter.)

The guide also offers self-help tools lawyers can provide to clients to enable them to understand and plan for the kinds of decisions they will face and engage all those who may participate in their future health decisions in the planning process. Those tools include websites and other online resources, starters kits, card games, videos, work books and conversation starters in multiple languages that help people prepare and make informed medical decisions.

 “By bringing the practices of lawyers into better alignment with clinical realities, the principles, checklist, and resources in the Guide enable lawyers to help their clients more effectively get medical care that truly honors their values, choices, and preferences throughout all stages of their illness” said Louraine Arkfeld, chair of the ABA Commission on Law and Aging.

 “Advance Directives: Counseling Guide for Lawyers,” is a collaborative work by a team of organizations, lawyers and medical experts from the ABA Commission on Law and Aging, the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, the University of California San Francisco Medical School and the UC/Hastings Consortium on Law, Science & Health Policy.

The project was funded by The John A. Hartford Foundation with support from The Borchard Foundation Center on Law and Aging.

To download the guide, click here.

For media interviews with experts, please contact Betsy Adeboyejo at Betsy.Adeboyejo@ameicanbar.org.

The ABA Commission on Law and Aging is a collaborative and interdisciplinary leader of the association’s work to strengthen and secure the legal rights, dignity, autonomy, quality of life, and quality of care of aging persons. The Commission accomplishes its work through research, policy development, advocacy, education, training, and through assistance to lawyers, bar associations, and other groups working on issues of aging.

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