Health Care Directives

Advance Directives (Living Wills)

Advance directives for health care, commonly referred to as living wills, allow you to make your wishes known concerning how you would like to be cared for in an end-of-life situation. New Jersey law gives you the right to execute a document limited to giving instructions about your wishes (an instruction directive). You may also execute a document by which you give no instructions and simply appoint a health care representative to make decisions for you (a proxy directive, which is a form of power of attorney). Or, you may execute a document giving instructions and appointing a representative to carry out your wishes in case you are unable to give instructions or if your intent is not clear under a given set of circumstances (a combined advance directive). A living will can specify what life-saving measures should and should not be taken. It should also deal with the various issues involved with organ donation, funerals and disposal of your remains.

Medical Power Of Attorney

Do you know that if you are in a hospital and are temporarily unable to consent to medical procedures, your spouse and your children do not have the legal authority to give consent to treatment for you or even to receive information about your medical condition? Some hospitals and health care providers will listen to the family's instructions and provide information, but we have personally seen others stick strictly to the rules with bizarre results.

Executing a medical power of attorney avoids the potential gap in proper medical care. The medical powers of attorney we draft are separate from living wills for several reasons. Practically speaking, doctors don't like to have to read long documents. Therefore, we prepare two shorter documents, one dealing with situations where the patient is expected, and one when the patient is at the end of his or her life. Many of the living wills we see deal only with end of life situations and technically do not provide guidance for temporary medical conditions.

Our medical powers of attorney deal with the possibility that the health care representative may not be immediately available even at a critical time. We provide for authorization for successor representatives to take over temporarily, thus avoiding a gap in coverage.

HIPAA Authorization

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a comprehensive Federal law enacted to protect the privacy of patients. A major goal of the privacy rule is to assure that health information regarding individuals is properly protected on one hand, while permitting, at the same time, the flow of health information needed to provide and promote high-quality health care and to protect the public's health and well-being. The object of the rule is to strike a balance that permits important uses of information, while protecting the privacy of people who seek care and healing.

Health care providers are not permitted to release to third parties (including spouses and children) information about an individual's health, or finances related to health care (such as medical bills or payments that are due or that have been made), unless there is authorization from the individual. We frequently prepare a short authorization form that allows health care providers to give information to designated individuals. This is more common where there is a large, closely knit family but only few members are designated as representatives in the medical power or attorney or the living will.

The HIPAA authorization does not authorize the named individuals to give instructions regarding health care unless they are designated as health care representatives in medical power of attorney or living will. We include HIPAA authorization language in financial powers of attorney and in medical powers of attorney and living wills to the financial agent, who may or may not be the health care representative. This way, the agent can participate in making financial arrangements for nursing home care, to engage caregivers and to deal with insurance claims and other bills for health care.

Power Of Attorney For Minors

Where minor children are involved, their parents have the right to make medical decisions for them and do not need authorization forms. There are, however, some situations when it is important for a parent to authorize someone else to act in loco parentis — literally, in place of a parent. This type of power of attorney is important when a grandparent may be needed to pick a minor child up from school or take a minor child to a doctor or other health care practitioner, or where a grandparent has a greater role in the life of a grandchild.

To learn more about how we can help you with the various kinds of health care directives, schedule a consultation with one of our knowledgeable lawyers, contact us online or call 973-850-4121. We have offices in Riverdale and a satellite office in Kinnelon. Both offices are handicap-accessible and have adequate off-street parking. We are available during regular business hours in Riverdale and by appointment in Kinnelon.

Both offices are convenient to New Jersey Route 23 and Route I-287.

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