In our most recent newsletter, we shared with readers the importance of maintaining privacy when preparing advanced directives. Folks tend to have no problem with understanding privacy and money, but when it comes to privacy and health, the same deference is often not given.
Still, if we’re fortunate, many of us will live a long time. Given that good fortune, it’s also likely that some of that living will entail having to overcome or manage illnesses or health challenges we would rather loved ones not know about. Moreover, if the illness is irrelevant with respect to addressing our current medical issue, there’s no reason for them to know.
Yet, how often do individuals find themselves in emergency rooms, signing paperwork, unaware that all of their medical history may be released to the person they designate while they’re sitting in excruciating pain? Right. Not cool.
This particular potential angst can be avoided with a few steps and considerations:
- Ensuring the advanced directives for healthcare are tailored uniquely to the needs of the current situation.
- Ensuring that the directives – power of attorney for healthcare, mental health treatment declaration, and HIPAA forms – work in tandem with each other.
- Thinking about not just who should receive the information but when the information should be released.
For example, do our parents really need to know about the yeast infection we were treated for a few months ago when we’re in the ER because of appendicitis? Probably not.
***Disclaimer: This is not to say that we, lawyers, know how medical treatment is determined, especially when Botox, the stuff to make wrinkles disappear is now purported to calm muscle spasms. No, we are not doctors licensed to make treatment decisions.***
Conversely, if you’re incapacitated and feverish and the doctors can’t determine the cause, then a loved one may, in fact, need your complete medical history in order to make a fully-informed decision about your medical treatment. Thus, we are brought back to the issue of who should be our agent.
In this situation, perhaps instead of a parent being designated an agent, because of the information “ick factor,” designating a close friend would be more advisable.
Finally, but equally important is that we make these decisions are made before a visit to the ER is even contemplated, let alone needed.