March 24, 2005
GENERAL CURRAN URGES MARYLANDERS TO PLAN FOR HEALTH CARE ISSUES "BEFORE
Due to the heightened national awareness of issues
about the medical treatment of seriously ill patients, Attorney
General J. Joseph
Curran, Jr. would like to remind all Maryland residents of their
legal right to decide these matters for themselves. "Life
threatening illness is a difficult subject to deal with, but it’ s
also one that people of all ages face. If you plan now for what
should happen after a terrible accident or during a last illness,
your choices can be respected and you can relieve at least some
of the burden from your loved ones," said Attorney General
Curran. "If you put this off until the crisis comes, it may
be too late," he added.
A Maryland law called the Health Care Decisions
Act says that you can do health care planning through "advance directives." An
advance directive can be used to name a health care agent, that
is, someone you trust to make health care decisions for you if
you cannot. An advance directive can also be used to say what your
treatment preferences are, especially about treatments that might
be used to sustain your life. The Health Care Decisions Act sets
out two optional forms: the shorter one is titled "Living
Will," the longer one is titled "Advance Directive" and
it has two parts. Both forms can be completed without going to
a lawyer, but if there is anything you do not understand about
this important subject you may want to speak with an attorney.
Two witnesses are needed, but not a notary. Once you have completed
an advance directive it remains in effect unless you revoke it.
It does not expire. The document should be reviewed every few years
to make certain that it still reflects what you want.
The optional forms are available for free through
Attorney General Curran’s website at www.oag.state.md.us or by calling the office at 410-576-7000. Curran said that, as
a result of press
coverage of the tragic Terri Schiavo case, requests for these documents
have increased dramatically.
"If you decide to do an advance directive," Curran said, "be
sure to talk about your decisions with your family or others close
to you. The legal document is important, but even more important
is giving those who will be there for you a clear sense of how
you want end-of-life medical issues to be handled."