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Kokua Line
June Watanabe

Wednesday, September 14, 2005





Free sample living
wills offered online

Question: Is there a site where I can get an Advance Health Care Directive form free of charge? It seems that all the sites charge fees to download the form. Plus lawyers charge a fortune.

Answer: You can download sample long and short forms for free from the University of Hawaii Elder Law Program Web site -- www.hawaii.edu/uhelp. Just click on "sample forms."

But you don't need to use a specific form -- you can even draft one yourself.

The long sample form allows you to make your wishes known about organ donations, health-care providers and spiritual advisors, while the short form has limited instructions. The directive is often referred to as a "living will."

For people without access to a computer, sample forms can also be found in the booklet, "Deciding 'What if?' A Legal Handbook for Hawai'i's Caregivers, Families and Older Persons," said James Pietsch, director of the Elder Law Program.

The handbook is available for free at the program's office; call 956-6544. You can also get copies at various other senior sites, or through the city Elderly Affairs Division, which paid for the publication's printing, Pietsch said. You can reach that agency at 523-4545 (or check the Web site www.elderlyaffairs.com).

The handbook includes a discussion on Advance Health Care Directives, as well as on other elder care issues, Pietsch said.

Under Hawaii law, no specific Advance Health Care Directive form is required. A sample optional form is found in state statutes, which Pietsch's office has adapted over the years.

"We change it occasionally to meet people's needs and changing times," he explained. For example, the much-publicized Terry Schiavo case in Florida, involving a legal battle between parents and husband over removal of her life support systems, prompted a change.

There is no requirement that an attorney prepare the form, and you can have the form either notarized or have two qualified people act as witnesses. Neither witness can be a health-care provider, nor employed by a health-care provider, while one cannot be related to you by blood, marriage or adoption.

Pietsch pointed out that, as the Schiavo case well illustrated, life-and-death decisions don't only involve older people. Younger people should also make their wishes known via an Advance Health Care Directive.

With a directive, you are able to say what type and extent of care you wish in the event you become incapacitated. Your doctor, as well as health care agent named in the directive, are required to follow your wishes.

Without such a directive, your family may decide on your health care, even if it is not what you may want.

The Elder Law Program, which is part of the University of Hawaii's William S. Richardson School of Law, helps older people with legal issues through education, as well as direct services for those 60 and older who are "socially and economically needy."


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