JNA is committed to reminding you of the need to have advance directives in place in this period of uncertainty. We want to empower you with these beginning steps.
What is a medical power of attorney?
A medical power of attorney form, also known as an “advance directive” or “health care proxy,” is a form that allows a person to select someone else to handle health care decisions on their behalf, only if they are not able to do so themselves. The situation that would require this could be due to any type of incapacitation events such as a coma, vegetative state, or any type of mental condition that impairs the principal from thinking rationally.
Can this person make financial decisions?
No. The MPOA cannot be used to allow someone to make financial decisions.
Does the person you select have to be an attorney?
No. This person does not have to be an attorney. This person becomes your agent and is viewed as an “attorney in fact.”
What is required for an MPOA?
We are directing you to a form put out by the State of Maryland Office of the Attorney General. Read it carefully several times before you begin the process.
What do I need to do to begin getting it done?
You should begin to think about and select your Agent or alternate successor Agent in the event your first choice is unavailable when needed. The Agent or Agents that you select will have the responsibility for making your decisions based on your health care situation.
You will next decide what decisions to give the Agent.
The decisions you give your agent related to your health care is up to you. The Advance Directive Form allows you to make certain decisions which your Agent would have to follow. Emotionally, these decisions can be hard for us to make because it forces us to face our possible incapacitation and mortality.
The Form requires you to sign in the presence of two witnesses. How can this be done during a period of social distancing? Some states have made changes to this requirement, but this has not happened in the DMV.
A recent New York Times article advises that if you do not have an MPOA , “Take out your phone and do a video selfie: and answer the following: “This is (who I am). This is (the date). This is what I want. Then send it to your friends and relatives. That’s enough.”
A local lawyer, who focuses on wills and estates, shared a process she engaged in with two neighbors who served as her witnesses.
“We completed the signing process outside on a table. We all had masks and gloves on, each witness brought his/her own pen, we maintained distance, and we used sanitizer on the gloves after touching the page. I announced what the document was and my intent with respect to the document before the witnesses then signed, stepped away, and then one witness at a time came forward and signed and then stepped away. I had typed the witnesses’ names, addresses, and phone numbers on the document, so all each had to do was sign. When I got home, I left my papers in the sun in the sunroom for a few days to make sure they were virus-free.”
You can use this as a template and come up with ways to make it work for you.
What if I have an old MPOA in place?
According to the same Wash Post article: If you have paperwork stashed in a drawer or safe, now is the time to unearth it and see if your instructions still reflect your values. If so, scan the document and send it to family members and doctors.
See the April 28, 2020 New York Times “Pandemic puts advance directives in focus” article.
JNA will be bringing you updates on each advance directive. Let us know your progress or your observations at firstname.lastname@example.org.