I was reading through upcoming LGBT events in my community and came across what initially struck me as the most tame of postings I’d ever seen in my party-loving, adopted home of New Orleans. Advertised as an “LGBT Legal Fair”, this event was hosted by our local LGBT senior’s advocacy group, NOAGE, and was taking place at the AARP office a couple blocks from my house. After just completing another clinical rotation where I observed family tension regarding medication decision-making, I was reflecting on what would be done if something happened to me.
At 34 years-old, I’m a few decades shy of identifying as an LGBT senior, however I do have a long-term relationship with a woman who would be much better placed to make emergency decisions on my behalf than my family, who live over a 1000 miles away. Marrying automatically affords you the right of health care proxy for your loved one, but for those individuals who don’t plan on marrying, or who would rather identify a close friend as your proxy, attendance at a legal fair can help. While we aren’t planning on marrying until after I finish the insanity of my accelerated nursing program, we did want to ensure we were one another’s health care proxies and decided to visit the LGBT Legal Fair.
When we arrived, we were directed by the AARP staff to the conference room where snacks were being served, and half a dozen attendees were chatting with a bevy of friendly lawyers ready and willing to speak with us about our legal needs. We were taken to a private office to discuss: estate planning, living wills, medical power of attorney, and legal advice for adopting in Louisiana. We left feeling ecstatic about our signed and notarized medical power of attorney and living wills, all done pro bono! We are now legally able to make medical decisions for one another if one of us becomes incapacitated.
For members of the LGBT community who are estranged from family, or unmarried but have identified a friend or partner who you would you trust to make medical decisions, consider attendance at an LGBT legal fair. You can find out more about them via your local chapter of SAGE (http://www.sageusa.org/). Many of these events are pro bono and as such, have no cost for you!