Being Beside the One You Love, In Sickness and In Health
February 14, 2012 by Tom Sullivan
Having a heart-to-heart discussion about your healthcare wishes in the event of a medical emergency may not be your idea of a romantic evening on Valentine’s Day, but it is something that you should put on your “to do” list.
Consider this. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that up to 40 percent of hospital patients can’t make decisions for themselves about their treatment; among the critically ill, this figure jumps to 95 percent. This means surrogate decision-makers often need to make difficult choices for their loved ones, and in one-third of all cases they experience negative emotional effects that frequently last for months. Simply by discussing your preferences beforehand, you can reduce the stress and negative emotional effects on your decision-maker.
You also should take the time to put things in writing. Each state has its own laws and forms regarding “advance healthcare directives” which allow you to document your healthcare wishes. These directives may be used by any adult to designate their surrogate decision-maker, whether they are in a relationship that is recognized by state law (domestic partner, civil union, marriage), or not. In fact, even if you are single you should complete directives, perhaps naming a friend or close family member as your surrogate. Take a moment to learn more about protecting your hospital visitation and decision-making rights.
If you’ve already had these legal documents drawn up, well done! Now, make sure to keep a file of your advance healthcare directives in a secure place at home and give copies to your primary care physician. Even with federal regulations on hospital visitation in place it is advisable to take these extra steps. However, having extra copies at home and with your doctor does not mean you will have these documents available in an emergency.
Since quick access to these documents is especially important to the LGBT community, HRC has negotiated a significantly discounted rate for HRC members for the services of DocuBank -- the nation’s largest electronic registry for healthcare directives. When you store your healthcare directives with DocuBank, you receive a customized wallet card that makes these documents, and your critical emergency information, instantly available anywhere in the world via automated fax or secure webpage, 24/7/365. (The one-year rate for HRC members is $25.)
For more information and to set up your DocuBank account, visit www.docubank.com/hrc.
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