OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) — Changes to Oklahoma's health care power of attorney have taken effect this week, where now Oklahomans are unable to appoint someone to carry their health care wishes if they're not able to themselves.
"This is a fundamental change to the way patients are able to express their wishes," said Jessica Zan, INTEGRIS Health's Manager for Advance Care Planning. "If we don't get the word out, I don't people left hanging with a document that doesn't have value, it's not fair to our community."
This major change comes after House Bill 2548 passed in the spring. The bill establishes Oklahoma's new Uniform Power of Attorney Act. The act was created to more closely align Oklahoma’s power of attorney laws with those of 30 other states, and to ease complications when health care decisions need to be made out of state. However, it left out what we already had in place when it comes to health care power of attorneys.
It now leaves Oklahomans with limited options.
"What we're left with are other documents that aren't quite as easy to engage and do have some other strings attached to them," said Zan.
One of those documents is Oklahoma's Advance Directive form, which could be used as a work around in getting someone to be your decision mater but it doesn't hold as much power.
With so much happening in our hospitals on a daily basis, the concerns are already swirling.
Attorneys across the state have been brushing up on the new law.
"It opens up a lot of questions and I think it's going to result in ineffective care and a lot more court involvement, where it could be avoided by allowing us to continue with the health care power of attorney," said Rachel Bussett with Bussett Legal Group.
If you have a prior existing durable power of attorney, the new law will not nullify your existing agreement. Additionally, any durable power of attorney agreement entered into between the passage of the new law and when it goes into effect on November 1st will remain in legal effect. However, any durable power of attorney agreement entered into after November 1st will be considered invalid for healthcare purposes.
That's why the best advice right now is to plan ahead as much as you possibly can.
"Your best bet is to execute that Advance Directive and secondly, at a minimum you have a will and in the will you appoint somebody who you would want somebody to be the guardian," said Bussett. "If you needed the guardian, you've expressed your wishes and if someone needs to take control, you're telling the court who you want to be the decision maker on that."
According to the Oklahoma Hospital Association they say they'll be working with the lawmakers who authored this bill in the coming months to see if any changes are needed. The association says they'll also be working with hospitals on their proposed ideas to fix any issues.
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