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Virginia's New Advance Health Care Directive Registry by Jennifer B. Baumgartner, Esq.

The Commonwealth of Virginia has launched a new statewide Advance Health Care Directive Registry. Administered by the Virginia Department of Health, the Registry is a confidential and secure on-line service offered to Virginia residents that will allow you to upload and store your Advance Medical Directives, Health Care Powers of Attorney, Declarations of Anatomical Gift, and similar such documents, to ensure that health care providers and personnel, emergency responders, family members, and others to whom you have granted access will honor your wishes and directions if ever you become unable to manage your own health care.

Without advance planning, health care decisions are often left to family members when a loved one becomes incapacitated and unable to speak for themselves. An Advance Health Care Directive document puts in writing the kind of medical treatment you want if you become so ill that you can't communicate your wishes. An Advance Health Care Directive document can allow you to:

•· Create a "living will" if you do not want "life-prolonging procedures" under certain conditions.

•· Grant one or more persons the right to make medical decisions on your behalf (only if you cannot do so yourself).

•· Direct that all or parts of your body be donated after your death.

Preparing and filing an Advance Health Care Directive document in the Registry not only will relieve your family of the responsibility of making such important and personal decisions on their own, but will make your wishes and directions more accessible in the event of an emergency.

Using the Registry is easy, and registration is simple. You are asked to enter basic information, create an account, and select a personal identification number and password. You then will receive an identification card containing your personal registry information that you can carry in your wallet. You may also share your personal identification number with friends, family, and health care providers, allowing them access to your information.

While other states have similar registries, Virginia is the only state to offer such a system at no cost to taxpayers or Registry users. Additionally, Virginia is the only system designed to eventually integrate with the statewide Health Information Exchange system to further streamline the ability of hospitals and emergency responders to have access to critical health care data. The Health Information Exchange is a secure, confidential electronic system the state is creating so that a patient's medical records can be accessed by health care providers throughout the nation if a patient chooses to participate.

If interested in registering, or learning more about Advance Health Care Directive documents, please contact Jennifer B. Baumgartner, Esq., (703) 277-9745, jbaumgartner@siplfirm.com.

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