AHD Conferences

“The Patient Alone:  Making Health Care Choices for Patients Without Surrogates”
May 6-7, 2008
John Hancock Hotel & Conference Center
Boston, Massachusetts

Did you miss this conference?

“The Patient Alone” conference was successfully held on May 6-7, 2008 in Boston, with almost 100 people attending. Participants included public and professional guardians, risk managers, physicians, nurses, social workers, elder law attorneys and house counsels, probate and family law judges, and members of ethics committees. The conference prompted extremely positive feedback from participants from 18 states.

We are now exploring ways to continue the active and important discussions of this conference, and ask for your help:

What kind of resources would help you develop effective policies for your organization, agency, health system, or state?

How have other agencies developed and implemented their programs?

Would you like on-line access to other professionals with similar agendas?

What kind of written materials would be useful?

Would it be helpful to know about the successes and not-quite-so successful efforts of others?

Whether or not you attended “The Patient Alone” we’d like to hear from you before the end of July. If you have the time, send us an email: programs@masshealthdecisions.org. Or call David Clarke, director of non-profit Massachusetts Health Decisions (and current chair of American Health Decisions) at 781-784-1966.

We’d like to hear from you.

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What was the conference about?

Is this situation familiar to you: “What should we do about Felicia? She needs the surgery soon, but there’s no one to give consent. She never did a Health Care Proxy and despite her last four hospitalizations, no one applied for a guardian. We can’t seem to find any family, and all the people in her old neighborhood have either died or moved away. Can we. . .I mean . . should we just do the surgery anyway and hope that no one ever asks questions?”

There is a persistent problem of deciding what to do on behalf of patients who are incapacitated (or soon will be) and have no available surrogate. Indeed, it is at the core of what has become a porous doctrine of informed and voluntary consent: personal autonomy is a great idea, but it’s a difficult concept to apply in all situations. Responses to the problem include court-appointed guardianship, public guardian programs, surrogate decisionmaking committees, institutional and system-wide policies and protocols, as well as ad-hoc decisionmaking from persons without legal authority to decide.

The problem exists among “unbefriended elders;” returning and troubled veterans estranged from family and friends; emancipated minors with dependency problems; persons with mental illness or developmental disabilities; people whose physical disabilities or native language makes communication difficult and erroneously raises a presumption of incapacity; and others.

This conference seeks to explore the responses to date, and move the discussion forward. If this issue is part of your job or a passionate part of your life, or both, we hope you’ll attend. We look forward to your thoughts, ideas, and recommendations.

For complete information on the presentations, faculty and more, CLICK HERE.