St. Augustine Woman's Journal - Educational Resource to the Women of St. Johns County Since 2009

A Really Sad Story

 

September 1, 2018 | View PDF

As John Cougar Mellencamp sang, "Here's a little ditty about Jack and Diane!" (Actually, here's a little sad tale about Jack and Diane who did not prepare for their adult life as regards to their legal documents.)

Jack and Diane met in college and graduated within one semester of each other. They were deeply in love but as Millennials often do they did not rush into a traditional lifestyle. Jack got a good job in Chicago with an up and coming restaurant chain doing all of their tech support, spread sheets and inventory control. Great salary and unlimited credit in the chain of restaurants! Diane finished her degree in hospitality management and came to work for the same employer as quality control of the visitor experience, so each new location maintained the highest level of customer service. They found a great loft with a view of the park in Central Chicago. Life was great. They had good insurance, pension plans and profit sharing opportunities. They had no estate plan or advanced directives. They felt they were too young. They were both 27 years old and they were NOT married. (Many younger couples today do not marry.)

Jack and Diane worked hard and planned a ski vacation to beautiful Breckenridge Colorado. Jack was already a skier and Diane was eager to learn. The first day she took a lesson while Jack hit the slopes. A fast learner she joined Jack on the intermediate trails by the next day. After lunch Jack convinced her to join him on a "little more challenging" black diamond course and she jumped at the chance.

As they got off the ski lift Diane's heart sank as she looked down the steep, narrow, tree lined snow course ahead of her. She was game though and Jack said, "Follow me!" and took off down the mountain. Hesitating, she watched Jack stop about a hundred yards away and she knew it was time to go. She made it down the first part and stopped long enough to give him a little wave! Jack saw that and taking it for a sign that all was well he took off toward the bottom. Diane began to criss-cross down the slope gaining speed at an alarming rate! As she was approaching the edge of the tree line she tried to cut back but her ski dropped into a deep trough of powdery snow. She couldn't stop before and crashed into the trees. She tasted blood in her mouth before she blacked out.

It was two hours later that Jack came upon her with the ski patrol and she was loaded on the emergency sled and taken straight to the hospital.

Jack hurriedly retrieved their belongings from the locker, jumped into the rental car and sped off to the hospital. When he arrived he frantically asked the nurse at the desk to tell him where Diane was being treated. She asked Jack his name and she said there was no one by that name here. Jack said, no her last name is not the same as mine, we are not married but we are couple, we live together. The nurse said she was sorry, but HIPA Privacy regulations do not permit her to give him any information at all. She asked if he was perhaps her Health Care Surrogate, he said no. Durable Power of Attorney? No, he replied. Are you listed on her Living Will perhaps? He said no, no, we're not on any paperwork together except maybe our lease!

The nurse apologized but the law is clear. If she is over eighteen it doesn't matter if you are her parent, she can give out no information without her consent. If she regains consciousness I'm sure she will tell her nurse to let you come up. Maybe he could call her next of kin and they can come to the hospital and inquire, perhaps? No, her parents and she are estranged. I wouldn't have any way of contacting them anyway.

Unknown to Jack, Diane was slowly slipping away with a massive head injury. She lasted about six or seven more hours. Meanwhile, Jack had found a local attorney that sympathized with his situation but the courthouse wouldn't open until Monday so there was nothing to be done.

Diane passed away by herself in a strange hospital while the person she loved most in the world remained in the lobby of the emergency room.

What we learn from this is that unmarried couples, companions and friends are running a big risk unless they have their advanced directives done: Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Surrogate, Living Will and Pre-Need Guardianship Election are the MINIMUM. You should also have your estate planned out as well, preferably a Living Trust. So go see someone immediately. Let's all live like we're going to die tomorrow but let's plan like its 75 years!

 
 

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