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A University of Alabama Law School Clinical Program funded in part by West Alabama Regional Commission

Powers of Attorney

Wills, Trusts, Estates


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Nursing Home Issues

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The 20th Century saw wonderful medical advances in treating sickness, injury or chronic illness. Among the advances were procedures designed to keep a patient alive during a health crisis, allowing treatment of an underlying illness or injury so the patient could recover. Unfortunately, many of those treatments came to be used routinely not to allow the patient to recover but simply to sustain a semblance of life in hopeless and terminal situations. Though kindly meant, the result was often cruel to patients and loved ones.

As more people became aware of the suffering caused by inappropriate use of life-sustaining treatments there was increasing demand for more control over their use in terminal situations. Courts supported the idea that competent adults have the right to choose a natural death, and every state now provides a way for a person to refuse treatment that can only extend the dying process.

We have several documents in Alabama that allow us to make health care choices in advance of a crisis. All of them must be executed while the person making the choices is competent. This article provides more information about those documents. Following are:

  1. Brief summary of the movement toward end-of-life choices:
    1. right to consent;
    2. living wills – Alabama and other states.
  2. Alabama’s Advance Health Care Directive:
    1. 1997 and 2001 versions;
    2. valid old forms still valid (caution!);
    3. surrogate provision;
    4. still have right to pain relief/comfort care.
  3. Durable Health Care Power of Attorney (Alabama).
  4. Definitions, pros and cons of life-sustaining treatments.
  5. Crisis of under-treated pain.
  6. Form: Amended Alabama Advance Health Care Directive.
  7. Form: Sample Durable Health Care Power of Attorney.
  8. Form: HIPAA Authorization
  9. References and resources.





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