Thursday, March 15, 2018

Important changes regarding online access to WV healthcare directive forms

The WV Center for End-of-Life Care has been defunded and will cease operations before the end of March 2018. Their excellent website has been the best source for information and forms for advance healthcare directives in West Virginia including the Medical Power of Attorney and Living Will. The Center has been the driving force for policy in our state regarding surrogate healthcare decisionmaking and planning, and has made West Virginia a leader across the country in this area. We at WVSLA are sad about the Center's demise, the loss of these valuable resources including the great staff at the Center, and are concerned about the future development of policy and resources in the vital and changing area of end-of-life decisionmaking.

The future of the E-Registry is uncertain. The e-registry was a real innovation, one of the first in the nation, and had (perhaps still has?) the potential to dramatically enhance the likelihood that your advance healthcare choices get respected. It is an electronic database available free to patients and providers. You could voluntarily upload your completed directives to the database and only participating providers with HIPAA access to your medical records could access your directives. Even if you carefully made thoughtful choices, talked to your agents and family and informed them about your values and wishes, and properly executed the appropriate documents if those documents can't be found by the right providers in the critical moments your choices could go unfulfilled. A good e-registry used properly could make fill that gap. We hope the e-registry finds a new home and continues to improve.

Meanwhile, here are a few takeaways about this news:

- you can still access the information and documents from the old WV End of Life Center at the WV Center for Health Ethics and Law,

- the law has not changed, the West Virginia Health Care Decisions Act, WV Code ยง16-30-1, et seq. has not been affected by the Center's closure,

- your Medical Power of Attorney, Living Will, POST, or other documents that were previously and properly executed are still valid,

- now is a good time to review your documents and make sure they reflect your current wishes and that your chosen representative(s) are still able and willing to act. It is important to periodically review your documents to account for changes in your wishes and circumstances,

- you should not rely on the e-registry at this point as the only way for providers to access your directives. A photocopy of your properly-executed document is as valid as the signed original, and your providers need to have a copy of your document in order to be able to implement what it contains. Now is the time to verify that your treating providers have your current documents on file,

- the future of policy development in end-of-life decisionmaking in our state is uncertain, and now is the time for West Virginians who care about these issues to let lawmakers know what is important.

If you are at least 60 years old and a West Virginian with questions about healthcare decisionmaking and planning you can talk to an attorney for free at WV Senior Legal Aid by calling us at 1-800-229-5068.


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