How should court-appointed guardians handle decisions about the COVID-19 vaccine with their wards? Experts advise: apply the substituted judgment standard.
Focus On The Ward’s Wishes and Values
Carefully and respectfully making important decisions on behalf of a loved one—aka ward—is central to the role of guardians. Of course the pandemic has added to the sensitive issues guardians confront. For example, many guardians are now grappling with vaccine-related decision making responsibilities.
Experts remind guardians that they must seek to understand the wishes of the ward and act accordingly. AS The National Law Review explains:
Remember that you are obligated to consult your ward and apply the substituted judgment standard; that means making the decision based on their previously expressed wishes and values, not what you or their physician thinks is best for them. If your ward is capable of being involved in the decision-making process, then you must consult them and give them a simple plain language explanation of the risks and benefits. If you do not know your ward’s wishes regarding vaccines, you should consider their values and thoughts on medical intervention generally. You should weigh the risks and benefits of vaccination in light of your ward’s values and their personal situation.
Facilities cannot force you to consent to vaccination, but if you refuse, your loved one may be subject to continued isolation or perhaps even transfer. If you believe that your ward’s rights are not being protected, you may contact the Long-Term Care Ombudsman or the state Department of Health.
Worth Knowing: Understanding Guardianship Bonds
Frequently, in the process of appointing a Guardian, courts request a Guardianship Bond. This is a type of fiduciary bond—that in some regions or circumstances can also be referred to as a conservator or personal representative bond. Like all fiduciary bonds, a guardianship bond serves as a guarantee that the guardian will act in accordance with applicable laws and standards. Learn more about your fiduciary duties as a guardian here.
As a leading national direct provider of all types of fiduciary bonds, Colonial Surety Company makes it easy for guardians in every state to obtain their required bonds. At Colonial, the steps to obtaining guardianship bonds are easy: get a quote online; fill out your information; and enter the payment method. Instantly print or e-file the bond right from your home or office—even while at court. It’s that simple.
Support For Guardians
Right now, guardians of wards in long-term care facilities have many questions related to the COVID-19 vaccine. Tp help them, the National Guardianship Association has collaborated with the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging and the National Center for State Courts to respond to Frequently Asked Questions.
These experts also caution guardians to:
- Be alert for scams. For example, there are no fees for the vaccine—or arranging an “earlier” appointment.
- Remember that immunity is not immediate—your ward should continue following all safety precautions even after receiving the vaccination.
- Keep in mind that it is not yet clear if a vaccinated individual can infect others. Guardians should also continue following all safety precautions.
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