Thursday, November 14, 2013

Accessibility of Healthcare Documents

We encourage all of our clients to execute a healthcare power of attorney and a directive to physicians.  Under Nevada law, these two documents are the equivalent of a living will and are also sometimes known as an advanced care directive.  The names used from state to state and between different attorney’s offices can be confusing, but the content of the documents is basically the same:

1.       Who is empowered to make healthcare decisions for me when I can’t make them myself?

2.       What are my preferences for termination of life support and other “end of life” decisions?
These documents are of great importance for a client having health issues.  A person going in for a scheduled surgery or hospital stay usually has time to remember and gather these documents.  But a person going into the hospital unexpectedly is not likely to have these documents at hand.
 
An article in the New York Times discussed this issue with a social worker in New Jersey.  She explained the frustration in having to try and track down these documents from law firms, family, and friends of patients.  The story encourages people to provide copies of their healthcare documents to their primary physician and to their named healthcare agents.  I agree with this advice.
Luckily in Nevada, we have a free resource that can also help avoid this problem.  The Living Will Lockbox administered by the Nevada Secretary of State is a free program offered to Nevada residents where your healthcare documents are securely scanned and stored for easy retrieval.  The Living Will Lockbox affords healthcare providers and patients easy access to the patient’s living will or advanced care directive by allowing these documents to be easily downloaded using the patient’s last name and a registration ID number.  Following registration the Living Will Lockbox provides a card for your wallet containing your registration number and the web address.  This service is a great idea and makes your documents easily accessible in an emergency situation.  Bottom line: make sure your documents are accessible by either utilizing the Living Will Lockbox or providing copies of your documents to your physician or healthcare agents.

- Jason C. Walker, Esq.

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