Minneapolis (3-24-05): -- The Hennepin County Bar Association (HCBA) has placed its booklet, Health Care Directives: Questions & Answers (commonly called living wills) online for individuals to print out from their own computers.
The booklet includes directions and an easy-to-use form based on the 1998 legislation that simplified the preparation of health care directives. The legislation allows for living wills to provide for care by taking two specific steps. An individual can 1) name a proxy, or agent, with authority to make decisions, and 2) give specific direction on how care should be given under specific situations. A health care directive only takes effect if an individual is no longer able to personally communicate those wishes.
Volunteer attorneys from the bar association participated this week in an “Ask-a-Lawyer” call-in at KARE-11 Television. All phone lines lit up during news reports of the much-publicized situation of Terri Schiavo in Florida. Legal and political battles rage over what care should be provided to a brain-injured woman who has survived for 15 years in what court-appointed doctors have called a persistent vegetative state. Schiavo had no written directive and her parents and husband have disagreed about whether feeding tubes should be removed.
Considerable interest in care directives has grown from the Schiavo situation, as people have been reminded that the need for a care directive is not limited to just the aged or chronically ill. Inability to communicate one’s wishes can result from various conditions, including both illness and trauma, such as Ahlzeimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia, and accidents causing brain damage.
A lawyer is not needed in order to prepare a health care directive. The booklet answers many frequently asked questions on how to prepare and implement a directive. The form, based upon the law’s suggested format, can be downloaded from www.hcba.org.
General information on health care directives is also available through TEL-LAW, a free library of recorded messages on frequently asked legal questions. To access TEL-LAW messages, call (612) 752-6699 and key in the number of the requested message. (For health care directives, key in 219.) For other legal issues, individuals wishing to consult an attorney can call the Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS), a public service of the Hennepin County Bar Association. LRIS is available from 9 a.m. till 4:30 p.m. each business day at (612) 752-6666.
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