Derek Cordier, Esquire
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I have heard a few horror stories about LGBTs and powers of attorney. Without a power of attorney for health care you may be unable to accompany your partner or loved one to the doctor’s office or hospital room. Even in an emergency, without a power of attorney for health care in your possession, you may be unable to travel with your partner in an ambulance. Could you imagine the horror of being told you cannot get into the ambulance with the love of your life because you do not have a power of attorney? Then running home to get the power of attorney only to find that your partner had died en route to the hospital!

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) have made health care professionals extremely vigilant in not allowing access to their patient’s confidential health information. Such information includes your name, address, and social security number. Although, there is no private cause of action under HIPPA, and there is a 180 day time limit to file a claim, an entity that is accountable under the Act is subject to severe fines for an infringement.

Many durable powers of attorney only contain a short paragraph concerning health care, which may not be enough to allow a partner to access confidential health information. A comprehensive health care power of attorney allowing specifically for access to confidential health information, while giving the power holder the ability to choose doctors, provide for changes in care and comfort, is the best way to protect your rights concerning your own health care.

While a power of attorney for health care allows someone else to make decisions for you if you are incapacitated, it does not necessarily allow them to make the decision to stop life support. A living will, called an Advanced Health Care Directive in Pennsylvania, is needed to carry out those wishes.

Although a Last Will and Testament is important, a power of attorney for health care is, in my opinion, the most important document an LGBT can have. In my last hours I do not want a doctor or family member interfering with the rights my partner should have as a matter of course.