ABA, Maryland Attorney General’s Office Release Health Care Decision-Making Guides
WASHINGTON, D.C., March 29, 2006 — In commemoration of the one-year anniversary of Terri Schiavo’s death, the American Bar Association and the Maryland Office of the Attorney General are releasing two self-help guides for adults faced with making difficult medical decisions for a loved one. The guides will be unveiled at a public ceremony on March 30 at 10:00 a.m. at The Hospice of Baltimore’s Gilchrist Center in Baltimore. Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. will be joined by Charles P. Sabatino of the ABA’s Commission on Law and Aging.
The views expressed in the guides have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association and, accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association.
The first guide is a short pamphlet titled Making Medical Decisions for Someone Else: A Guide for Marylanders. The guide presents key information about the role of a health care proxy in Maryland. The second guide is a more detailed, Web-based document, Making Medical Decisions for Someone Else: A Maryland Handbook. Step-by-step explanations of how to complete the critically important job of a health care proxy are offered in this guide. The guides are designed to aid family members and others faced with making health care decisions for a loved one or friend as a health care proxy.
A health care proxy is anyone serving as a substitute decision-maker — as an agent under a durable power of attorney for health care, as a family member or close friend (called a “surrogate” under Maryland law), or as a guardian appointed by the court.
“The health care proxy role never existed before the advent of modern medical technology,” said Sabatino, director of the ABA’s Commission on Law and Aging, which produced the guides. “There’s no job description and no familiar models for how to be a good proxy decision-maker. This pair of guides tries to fill that vacuum by describing in simple terms what it’s like to be a health care proxy, what to do while there’s still time to think about it, how to make the hard decisions and where to get help.”
The guides stress the importance of talking, explain how to talk to the patient while there is still time to learn what treatment the person would want, and explain how to talk with doctors and other medical professionals when the time comes.
“The handbook is for Marylanders,” stated Sabatino, “but we hope it will be a model for other states. As the population grows older and more people with disabilities are living longer, there will be more individuals who can’t make health care decisions for themselves, like Terri Schiavo. Being a proxy is one of society’s most challenging jobs, but it can also be a profound act of love. Individuals serving in that role deserve all the help they can get.”
The ABA Commission on Law and Aging is a leading national resource about emerging issues at the intersection of law, social policy and the lives of older persons.
With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law in a democratic society.
The Maryland guide was funded by the Morton K. and Jane Blaustein Foundation, a Maryland-based foundation. The guide may be found on the Web site of the Maryland Office of the Attorney General at www.oag.state.md.us Making Medical Decisions for Someone Else: A Guide for Marylanders is also available from the ABA Commission on Law and Aging, phone 202/662-8690, or e-mail email@example.com.