WellesleyWeston Magazine

WINTER 2012/2013

Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

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WellesleyWeston Magazine | winter 2012/2013 © M EDIA BAKER Y Each milestone in our adventure has the potential to touch those around us in ways which may not be felt until we are gone. doctors. A few simple documents—the HIPAA consent form, a health care proxy, a durable power of attorney, and a living will, placed in an envelope or file folder where it can be easily found, will help to avoid this situation. Feigenbaum recommends that the conversation con- tinue throughout people's lives so that any changes in marital status, health, lifestyle, and the law are reflected in these essential documents. Most people are vaguely familiar with HIPAA consent forms because at one point or another they signed one to allow their doctors to release medical information to their insurance company to facilitate payment. Designed to protect people's privacy, under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, health care providers are technically precluded from discussing the per- sonal health information of an adult or adult child with that person's family members in the absence of their patient's consent. Signing and distributing a simple patient consent form can avoid this situation. A second document, the health care proxy, allows people 18 and older to designate another person, or agent, to make health care deci- sions for them in the event that they are unable to give informed consent themselves due to temporary unconsciousness, a coma, or another condition that renders them incapable. For example, Bernie desig- nated his wife to be his agent, and she was able to direct his health care treatment when Bernie was no longer able to communicate directly for himself. An agent does not have to be a family member. More fundamental criteria include that the agent will fol- low the individual's desire with respect to health care decisions and that they can handle the stress of making those decisions if called upon. A Health Care Proxy can be revoked at any time and the agent can only act after the patient's doctors have determined in writing that the patient lacks the ability to make health care decision on his or her own. Similarly, a durable power of attorney allows people to designate an agent to represent them in their private affairs, finances, and investments. Many people also complete a Living Will, or "Declaration to Physicians," to specifically outline what actions should be taken with respect to life-sustaining treatment. Some people wish to have their lives extended as long as possible under any circumstance; others prefer to be able to indicate the types of treatment that they would like—or would specifically refuse—and under what conditions. These condi- tions may include their prognosis for recovery, the quality of their lives, and the level of permanent pain that they may have to endure. Living 80

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