About 4 years ago, the Utah enacted a new statute (law) dealing with end-of-life decisions. Prior to that time, a person could sign a simple “living will” to provide directions for when medical providers should withhold artificial life support having the effect of unnaturally prolonging the dying process. The law was changed to give people more options and flexibility with regard to end-of-life decisions. At our firm, based on the Utah statute, that legal document is now eight pages in length rather than one. However, the eight-page document also includes what some people refer to as “medical power of attorney” which enables someone to make medical decisions if you are unconscious and in need of serious medical attention such as blood transfusion, amputation, cancer treatment, and a host of other possibilities.
The document also includes the HIPAA waiver form which allows your medical decision makers to have access to what is otherwise federally protected confidential medical information about you. What this means is if your medical decision makers don’t have access to your medical information from your medical providers, then their ability to make medical decisions for you is limited. By signing a HIPAA waiver form, you can authorize hospitals, doctors, and other healthcare providers to release your confidential medical information to your medical decision makers so that they can make medical decisions for you -- knowing all the facts concerning your health and medical status. That form is rolled into a single document. So, instead of (in the past) having three separate documents for end-of-life decisions, medical decisions when you are mentally incapacitated, and accessing confidential medical and healthcare information, those three distinct things are now rolled into one document that can be given to people in your family, your medical decision makers, your hospital, your doctors, etc. In fact, you can even register those documents with a company such as “Docubank” which will keep your documents in a virtual document bank and issue you a medical emergency card to carry in your wallet or purse. With that card in your possession, if you are taken to an emergency room, the medical providers can dial the toll-free number on your “Docubank” emergency card and have all of your living will, medical power of attorney, and HIPAA waiver form faxed to them, from anywhere in the United States or anywhere in the world -- 24 hours a day 7 days a week. A lot of our clients are finding that this is a very helpful tool to have their medical documents “with them” in the event they are hospitalized, expectedly or unexpectedly.
Check with your estate planning attorney and make sure that these matters are all taken care of. This is a good time to tidy up, clean up, and update and make sure that, even though you don’t expect anything is going to happen to you, you are prepared and those you love and care about are prepared if something does happen.