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New laws let you refuse the use of opioid medication

Imagine you suffer from a severe stroke, and you can't make medical decisions for yourself. Your designated health care proxy, or your spouse, will have the right to step in and advise your doctor how to care for you. But what if your doctor prescribed an opioid and your proxy wasn't there to approve it? The doctor would administer the prescription anyway.

A new law from last year -- supported by Gov. Charlie Baker -- gives patients the right to say "no" to opioids, even if they're incapacitated.

Here's what the opioid legislation says

According to the law, patients can put directives in their records that prevent doctors from prescribing opioids. These guidelines prevent treating physicians from independently prescribing opioids to patients who inserted a non-opioid directive in their medical records. Only the patients' health care proxies or spouses can bypass such an instruction.

Massachusetts isn't the only state to create a voluntary non-opioid directive. Alaska, Connecticut and Pennsylvania have enacted similar legislation. According to proponents of such non-opioid directive laws, the legislation creates the opportunity for doctors to talk to their patients about the risks associated with opioids, especially with regard to abuse of opioids. Proponents also believe that reducing opioid prescriptions limits opportunities for abuse.

Promotes the education of doctors and medical students

The non-opioid directive legislation in Massachusetts also supports the education of physicians and medical students, so they have more information about opioid abuse prevention.

One standard that the law seeks to implement is the use of seven-day limits the first time a patient receives an opioid prescription.

Not everyone agrees with non-opioid directives

Even though proponents like the way non-opioid directives promote conversations between patients and physicians, some doctors fear that these laws will create additional and unneeded burdens for physicians. In this respect, the debate continues.

Do you want to add a non-opioid directive to your medical file?

Talking with your estate planning lawyer about whether you should include a non-opioid directive in your medical record is a great place to start. Your estate planning attorney can help ensure that you assert your right appropriately not to receive opioid medications.

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