The pandemic has created a huge strain on schools, much as it has on other areas of society. Covid-19 has placed teachers and students into the front lines of the national debate over how best to best respond to the crisis. Education is so important for students, especially our youngest students, and this virus seems to impact far less the youngest among us. Despite great gains in distance learning, school only in front of a screen seems to offer lesser learning, especially for those youngest students. Yet a decision to send students to a face-to-face school setting puts the adults who teach, and who support that teaching, at a much greater risk. We are involved in a great national experiment to test methods of teaching during a pandemic and researchers will study for many years before any final conclusions are drawn. It is enough to make our heads spin but it is also more than enough to make our hearts go out to everyone involved in this experience.
Lawyers in Lancaster County, members of the Lancaster Bar Association (LBA), have come up with a unique way to show thanks to the educators in the Lancaster schools. The LBA's newest project, Classroom Heroes, offers free Living Wills and Health Care Powers of Attorneys for educators in the local schools. Attached here is an outline of the program and a recent newspaper article announcing the effort.
It may seem morbid to offer in gratitude for the sacrifice of educators in putting themselves at risk a service that is only needed when you are severely ill, but it is a practical gift for these times. Everyone over the age of 18 who has capacity should have a Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney in place. A Living Will expresses your wishes should you become unable to verbally make or communicate your health care choices and be in an end-stage medical condition or permanently unconscious. You can state your desire to have certain extraordinary medical interventions withheld or withdrawn “if they serve only to prolong the process of my dying;” that is, if there is no realistic hope of your significant recovery. A Health Care Power of Attorney appoints one or more persons to make health care decisions on your behalf both in an end-of-life context, or even if you are just temporarily unable to make and express your own decisions. The two documents go together, and the phrase “advance health care directive” can mean either of those two documents or a written combination of the two.
The two documents should not be confused with a Will which is a document prepared for purposes of estate planning.
If you are not in Lancaster but wish to have these documents prepared, speak to a lawyer where you live. If you do not know of a lawyer (and an often a great way to find a lawyer is to ask around and see if someone you know has a lawyer they know and trust), please call lawyer referral. You can check lawyer referral and find someone who will help you prepare these documents. One of the sponsors of the Pennsylvania Council for the Social Studies, the Pennsylvania Bar Association, runs a statewide lawyer referral program. Fill out the online form or call 800-692-7375 between 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday - Friday and describe your legal issue.
PAlawhelp.org is a wonderful resource for many topics of Pennsylvania law and you can find out information about these documents there.
Best wishes, stay well, and keep safe.