Ahead of our Community Law Workshops at Pride events in Asheville on October 4 and Winston-Salem on October 18, we sat down with Diane Walton, an attorney in Asheville who works on CSE’s legal team, to talk about why getting a Healthcare Power of Attorney is vital for LGBT people in the South.
At our free Community Law Workshops, clients meet face-to-face with a licensed attorney to complete their Healthcare Power of Attorney form. They then get the completed document notarized. Clients walk away with a document that is fully legal and functional.
Why is it important to have a Healthcare Power of Attorney directive, and what kinds of things can happen if you don’t have one?
A Healthcare Power of Attorney is someone you choose to make medical decisions or mental health treatment decisions for you when you’re unable to make or communicate these decisions for yourself. That person can visit you in the hospital, see your medical records and consent to medical treatment for you.
If you do not have a Healthcare Power of Attorney, the hospital will follow state law as to who may make medical decisions for you. Under North Carolina law that is your next of kin, such as your opposite-sex spouse or your parents, or possibly adult children or your siblings. In the LGBT community this can be a problem for some people if they are estranged from their family.
Bad things that can happen: Your spouse, partner, family of choice or friends can be kept from visiting you at the hospital and being informed of your prognosis or death. It’s possible to receive treatment you do not want, be placed at a facility you do not like, or be treated by physicians you wouldn’t choose.
Who can get a Healthcare Power of Attorney directive and who can legally have power of attorney?
Anyone over the age of 18 can designate anyone else over the age of 18 as their Healthcare Power of Attorney.
Do Power of Attorney laws vary widely by state?
How much time should Pride attendees expect to spend completing the Healthcare Power of Attorney form?
30 to 45 minutes.