…queer as in we willst ensure thy will be done.
An elegant evening of end of life planning with FemmeLaw:
$100 per participant, evening includes info session with Q&A, printed materials on agency documents, and a completed Health Care Proxy, Cost will be credited toward end-of-life legal services suite should you choose to complete the package.
Space is limited.
The New Agency Documents:
Protection at the Margins
A couple of years ago I wrote a short piece about the ways in which my own queerness and love of queer people shaped my desire to create agency documents for my community. Agency documents, briefly, are legally effective documents that enable a person to make decisions now, and appoint other people as their agents to carry out those decisions, should they themself become for any reason unable to do so. They allow you to define and critically, to maintain, your desired quality of life. People often refer to these as “end-of-life” documents, and indeed, they are often invoked toward the end of a person’s life. But as I have said before, I like to think of them as quality of life documents. The legally effective decisions you memorialize in your agency documents are not about how you die, but how you live.
In the absence of specifically-drafted agency documents, the default settings of the law assume a subject who is financially stable, cisgender, neurotypical, part of an intact biological family, and probably in a heterosexual and/or monogamous legal partnership. Unless you make specific arrangements to the contrary, the law mandates a hierarchy of people (spouse, parent, child, etc.) who are authorized to make decisions on your behalf in the event that you lose the ability to make or communicate decisions for yourself. But these might not be people whose judgment you trust, or who have any respect for your actual wishes. They might not even be people with whom you have contact! And that’s just not going to work for a lot of us.
Drafting and executing agency documents gives you a lot of latitude to tailor your needs, wishes, and instructions, both in terms of including and excluding the people who have access to your care, and in terms of making sure that you are able to appoint people whose job is to carry out the wishes you have already expressed, rather than substituting their judgment for yours. And while the standard suite of agency documents works pretty well for a lot of people, there are some folks who may desire even more protection. The good news is that, at least to some degree, that protection is available.
Psychiatric Advance Directive
Although there is no legal way in which to prevent involuntary hospitalization with this kind of document, the psychiatric advance directive, or PAD, is a document that enables you to record your wishes with respect to psychiatric treatment. In the event of a psychiatric crisis, your care providers will look to this document for information about your doctors, your meds and dosages, the kinds of side effects you can and cannot tolerate, the kinds of treatments that you find helpful and harmful, and other information relevant to your care. Perhaps even more useful than the threat of liability, this document provides your doctors with critical information that should enable them to treat you more kindly, responsively, and effectively.
Requests for Respectful Treatment and Remembrance
This document, which outlines your preferences with respect to the name you are called, the pronouns by which you are referred, and how you are dressed in the event that you lose capacity or pass away, is in an experimental phase. We do not yet know whether it is enforceable, because it has not yet been tested. However, much like the PAD, this document provides important information to your caretakers and those responsible for memorializing you upon your passing. It is certainly worth considering if you would like to clarify your wishes for those who may not know.
Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains
Sadly, the anguish of a loved one’s passing (especially in targeted or marginalized communities) can be compounded by the intrusion of a previously estranged family member, who retrieves our friend’s remains and treats them in a manner that disrespects the person they were. We cannot necessarily prevent this from happening to anyone else, but we do get a say in who can access our bodies after our passing. By identifying someone in particular who may retrieve and dispose of our body, we also exclude all others from doing so. If you harbor concerns that someone may attempt to access your body in order to actively undermine your religious convictions or your gender, it may be worth thinking about executing this form, and making sure that you distribute it to a number of people, including, ideally, a neutral third party such as a lawyer.
Like everything else, our understanding of the scope of agency documents, and our available vocabulary to define ourselves and our lives in legally effective writing, is expanding to be more responsive to our deeply experienced needs. If you have questions about any of the documents referenced here, please feel free to call us, email us, or stop by our offices!