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Medical emergencies can strike in the blink of an eye and render people unable to care or make decisions for themselves. If you couldn’t communicate your care preferences or needs, how could you make sure those still were heard? This is a challenging question for anyone, but for those in the LGBTQIA+ community, there can be an added layer of complexity.
Medical providers may take direction from the patient’s next of kin from whom they may be estranged instead of the patient’s “chosen family.” An individual could be misgendered in memorial services or buried in non-gender-affirming clothing. Potential biases of medical providers also pose a threat.
Those issues drove Loeb & Loeb’s decision to partner with Inland Counties Legal Services, a nonprofit providing free legal services to residents of California’s San Bernardino and Riverside counties, and firm client Paramount Global to establish a first-of-its-kind pro bono clinic dedicated to helping LGBTQIA+ individuals craft advance health care directives.
An advance directive outlines medical preferences and designates someone to make medical decisions when a person loses the ability to communicate. For the LGBTQIA+ community, it can document an individual’s gender identity and expression—from the pronouns they use to any dead names to avoid—and make sure they have the right people making decisions for them.
Working with ICLS and Paramount, Loeb & Loeb counseled several LGBTQIA+ individuals about advance directives, from advising whom to designate for medical decisions to preparing the required documents. We also developed sample standard language for ICLS’ advance directive documentation covering the continuation of gender-affirming medical care, notifying estranged family and post-death wishes for remains.
Importantly, the clinic’s work with LGBTQIA+ clients will have an even wider impact because it will help other ICLS clients.
During our clinic, we identified a further enhancement for ICLS to apply to all advance directive documents: revised language ensuring that clients, while retaining the option, are not required to consult with one’s primary doctor before confirming medical decisions.
We revamped ICLS’ documentation to help affirm that their clients have access to the resources that would protect them and preserve their wishes. Our assistance has been crucial for ICLS, amplifying their efforts as the nonprofit continues to build out its broader health care program.
Loeb & Loeb is honored to join this important ongoing partnership to make sure ICLS clients’ voices are heard, even when they cannot speak themselves.