Ellen DiPaola is an attorney went to law school eight years ago and decided to specialize in obtaining guardianships. She began to realize that many people incorrectly assumed that their spouse or adult child could automatically step in to speak for them, should they become incapacitated. However, under Massachusetts law, there is no automatic substitution once one is unable to decide for themselves. So Ellen decided to do something about it.
The result is Honoring Choices Massachusetts, a website that puts together a clear and inclusive explanation of the steps to take to name a health care proxy. The site provides downloadable forms to designate a proxy, and gives examples of personal directives that provide additional information to a health care proxy. The site also educates about the importance of a durable power of attorney to allow another person to deal with bills and financial decisions should you be unable to do so.
More importantly, the website educates people about the larger context in which they will make these choices.
- It discusses the difficulties some people can have in deciding who will be their health care proxy, and gives examples of how this issue can be resolved.
- It gives an understandable explanation of the rights of people who are cognitively impaired or who suffer from mental illness.
- It provides important information about life sustaining treatments, which many people only have been exposed to through television or movies. As a result, many have inaccurate understandings of what these treatments entail and low success rates.
- It gives an overview of the spiritual and religious values that can guide choices.
- Last, it makes people aware that these decisions are on-going. What you may want and who you designate as your proxy are likely to change as you age and as you develop specific health issues.
Honoring Choices is partnering with a broad and inclusive array of community groups to help expand awareness. It provides excellent tools that allows people of all ages and states of health to decide who will take control of their health care decisions when they cannot.