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  • What is Medical Capacity?

    Photo: Group Think in Healthcare Decision Making. Source: Austrian National Library

    Sam, my friend from law school, flew in from Tucson with his N-95 mask in hand. He was here to visit his Aunt Tilda, who has been hospitalized with COVID. Last week, Sam asked me to prepare a healthcare power of attorney (POA) and a financial POA for Aunt Tilda to sign on his arrival.

    I told Sam it would be no problem, but since talking with him two days ago, Aunt Tilda’s condition has declined. She is now on a ventilator and improving, but no one is sure what will happen next. To manage Aunt Tilda’s comfort, the doctors are keeping her sedated.

    Challenge number one: An individual cannot sign a legal document if they do not understand what they are signing – it is known as “informed decision making or consent.” Mental capacity forms the basis of informed consent.

    So, with Sam’s arrival and remembering our story from last week, determining capacity is where this discussion needs to start!

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  • Who Can Help Aunt Tilda In the Hospital?

    <span>Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@marceloleal80?utm_source=unsplash&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Marcelo Leal</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/hospital?utm_source=unsplash&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a></span>
    My phone started ringing just as I unlocked my office door.

    The call was from Sam, a friend I met in law school. After earning his J.D., Sam chose to stay in Arizona to practice law while I somehow made my way to Maine and, ultimately, to a small mid-central community to build an Elder Law practice. After all, with a nursing background, 20+ years advising healthcare organizations, some guardianship work, and running a small, family-owned business, I was sure I had all the tools I needed!

    Sam’s Aunt Tilda was living in Belfast, Maine, and had just been admitted two days ago to the local hospital with shortness of breath, a slight fever, and a vague sense of not feeling well. The results of a COVID test were pending, but she was admitted and, up until very recently, resting comfortably. Late the night before, her shortness of breath had increased, her fever was up, and, according to the doctor, there were some “troublesome areas” on her chest x-ray.

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