Legal Issues & Advance Care Planning

GOAL: To explore the legal and ethical issues of dying persons and the legal liabilities of the Hospice Volunteer.

OBJECTIVES: Upon completion of this session, the participant should be able to:

  • Discuss New Hampshire laws on wills.
  • Discuss the implications of the “Living Will” and “Durable Power of Attorney”.
  • Understand auto liability if transporting a patient.
  • Discuss liability issues related to the role of the volunteer.

Wealth Transfer
Wills in the state of New Hampshire are governed by RSA:551. The University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension offers a great resource booklet called Making a Will in New Hampshire.

Advanced Directives
Advance directives are instructions you give regarding your future care. They may be oral or written. They are intended to be shared with family, friends, or medical providers. Family, friends and medical providers attempt to understand and fulfill your instructions, no matter what form they are in. However, to ensure that everyone understands your instructions, the State of New Hampshire recognizes a written advance directive document with two parts: a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and a Living Will.

The Foundation for Healthy Communities provides a booklet called the Advance Care Planning Guide to help New Hampshire citizens with the forms and guidance to complete this process. Additional resources on Advanced Directives in New Hampshire can be found here.

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization issued this press release on March 12, 2010, talking about completing living wills and health care proxies. Click here for more information.

A Portable-DNR order tells health care providers, when you are outside a health facility (e.g., hospital or nursing home), not to try to restart your breathing or heartbeat in the event that that your heart stops beating or you stop breathing. It is assumed that everyone wants to try to have his/her breathing or heartbeat restarted, but you may decide not to have the providers attempt cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Additional questions and answers about the New Hampshire Portable-DNR can be found here.

Volunteer Liability
Volunteers are protected in the state of New Hampshire from liability under RSA 508:17. This statute says that volunteers shall be immune from civil liability so long as they meet three basic criteria:

  1. the non-profit organization (HHHC) has documentation that the person is a volunteer,
  2. the volunteer is acting in good faith and within his/her role,
  3. the volunteer was not acting with willful, wanton or grossly negligent misconduct.

Activity related to transportation is exempted from this liability. If a volunteer were in an auto accident while volunteering, the volunteer's liability insurance would be the primary payer.

Volunteers might also be interested in knowing about New Hampshire's "Good Samaritan" law, RSA 508:12.

Additional Links

Recommended Library Resources

  • Video: Five Wishes