Usually it takes a series of noteworthy occurrences to call our attention to things we may take for granted.  Perhaps this is because of the seeming recent advances in LGBT rights (or lack thereof, as the case may be).  Within the last week we, as a community, have been reminded of the necessity of advance health care directives.  An advance health care directive, sometimes called a health care proxy or medical power of attorney, is a document that every individual should have. 

 The purpose of an advance health care directive is, in part, to name your agent for health care issues and decisions.  Next of kin sometimes try to interfere with the designated wishes of their family members.  By creating an advance health care directive, you can ensure as best able that your family follows your health care wishes.

The President’s recent memorandum requests that rulemaking be initiated, to ensure that hospitals that receive Medicare or Medicaid comply with federal regulations, and that additional recommendations by the Department of Health and Human Services on these issues be provided to the President within 180 days of April 15, 2010.  While the underlying issues and stories address and acknowledge the issues of couples and chosen, non-blood related, family within the community after the aftermath of the tragic separation of Clay and Harold, the memorandum does not create any right or new law that protects the community and its members.  Despite this recent action, every individual should take steps to protect themselves by taking the time to create an advance health care directive. 

In Maine, the standard advance health care directive form published by the State of Maine incorporates elements that allow you to designate your health care agents, your end of life sustaining treatment, funeral or burial wishes, a DNR (short for “Do Not Resuscitate”), and a section for other requests.  These sections all provide places for you to designate your wishes for someone to act on your behalf.  You can specify individuals you do not wish to be consulted about your health care decisions.  You can also specify what you want your agent to do on your behalf.  You can use a directive to designate visitation for the family that you have chosen in life, not just to your near and dear blood relatives.  In addition, if you are transgender, you can request that your family or agent and medical providers use appropriate gender pronouns and that they provide continuing hormone or other medical treatment.

In short, an advance directive gives the individual power to say what he or she wants for treatment and who he or she wants to be able to make those decisions, if they become incapacitated.  This crucial document is worth the time and thought to not only create, but to discuss with your family, loved ones, and medical providers.