Health Decisions and Advance Planning

Volume: 34 Issue: 2


Staff Contact:
Charlie Sabatino
Phone: 202-662-8686


The Commission successfully sought adoption of new policy before the House of Delegates in August 2012, supporting congressional action to amend the Patient Self-Determination Act to strengthen support of patients’ health care advance planning options. After the "death panel" hysteria of 2009, progress on this front may be a real possibility in the next Congress.

Consumer Education

You may have seen the new online, multi-state health care power of attorney and booklet entitled Giving Someone a Power of Attorney for Your Health Care. A Spanish version was also completed and posted. The form meets the statutory requirements for a health care power of attorney in all but five states.


New "Guidelines on the Termination of Life-Sustaining Treatment and the Care of the Dying" by the Hastings Center are soon to be published, replacing the original 1987 guidelines. The Commission served in a consulting role and is now participating in the planning of a 2013 conference to introduce the guidelines.


The number of states with Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment programs (POLST) endorsed by the National POLST Paradigm Task Force reached 15 this year. In carrying out the ABA’s 2008 policy supporting the POLST program, the Commission has served as a legal consultant to the Task Force and to nearly every state developing a POLST program. At least ten more states are expected to develop and implement programs in the coming year.

Media Awareness

The Diane Rehm Show, a National Public Radio program produced by WAMU in Washington, DC, featured the Commission staff in a program focusing on end-of-life conversations and advance care planning on August 8, 2012.


Educational efforts on health decisions and advance care planning included 19 professional conference presentations during the year and co-sponsorship of a cutting edge symposium, "Freedom of Choice at the End of Life: Patients’ Rights in a Shifting Legal and Political Landscape," at New York Law School in November 2012.



Search Bifocal

Portions of the Bifocal archive are available for online search. Use a keyword or other characteristics to search: complete issue PDFs beginning with the Winter 2001 issue (Vol. 22, No. 2), or individual articles in html format beginning with the August 2012 issue (Vol. 33, No. 1).


About Bifocal

Bifocal, the Commission on Law and Aging's bi-monthly journal, provides timely, valuable legal resources pertaining to older persons, generated through the joint efforts of public and private bar groups and the aging network.



The Commission distributes Bifocal for free six times a year to elder bar section and committee members, legal services providers, elder law and other private practitioners, judges, court staff, elder advocates, policymakers, law schools, elder law clinics, law libraries, and other professionals in the law and aging network.

    Subscribe to Bifocal using the Subscription and Discussion Lists form available on the Commission's Contact Us page.



Bifocal invites the submission of news about your elder bar section’s activities, as well as brief articles of interest to elder law and other professionals in the aging advocacy network.

    Share news about your entity’s initiatives towards the delivery of direct legal assistance to older persons in your particular area; pro bono and reduced fee programs; community legal education programs; multi-disciplinary partnerships; and new resources that are helpful to professionals and consumers.

    Also welcome are substantive law articles on legal issues of interest to state area agencies on aging, bar association entities, private attorneys, legal services projects, law schools, and others in the law and aging network.

    Bifocal is published bi-monthly. Email the Commission for manuscript guidelines and deadline information for upcoming issues.


Bifocal Archive

Older issues of Bifocal are archived here.