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Currents--University of Rochester newspaper

Students create do-it-yourself Web site

Two School of Medicine and Dentistry students have developed a Web site that makes doing the paperwork of health care proxies and living wills quick and easy.

The site, www.doyourproxy.org, offers free tools to create, print, and save the forms required to designate a health care agent and to list specific health care wishes for a time when illness or injury prevents communication.

"Thinking about these issues is difficult and it should be difficult," says Anne Fugle, a fourth-year medical student who initiated the proxy project. "But once you've made those tough decisions, filling out the forms should be straightforward and not complicated."

While doing her neurology rotation at the Medical Center, the need for health care proxies and living wills became clear to Fugle, who says she was affected by the legal struggle over Terri Schiavo.

"Neurology is one of several rotations where it is more stark, where we see patients who are unresponsive from stroke or other conditions but who have not made their wishes clear," explains Fugle. Making the material available online in a simple manner and without charge should prompt more people to create proxies and living wills, she adds.

A visitor to the Web site answers questions to complete the forms in an easy process that takes several minutes. Initially aimed at New York residents, the site now generates forms that meet the requirements of 35 states and also includes links to other helpful decision-making information. In the first two months of operation, more than 850 individuals visited the site, making more than 20,000 hits.

Fugle created the first version of the Web site. Another fourth-year medical student, A. Brock Roller, expanded and enhanced it. The collaborative effort helped the two satisfy the School of Medicine and Dentistry requirement that all fourth-year students participate in a project that benefits community health. At least two other medical students will take part in promoting it.

Timothy Quill, director of the Center for Palliative Care and Clinical Ethics at the Medical Center and well-known expert on end-of-life care, recommends the site.

"Despite the tragic case of Schiavo educating us about the consequences of not having an advance directive, we still know that four out of five Americans are avoiding the final step of completing a document," Quill says. "These medical students have made a terrific effort to close that gap by making it easier to complete an advance directive online, print it, and send it to your family and physician. The site is easy to access, prompts the user to make key decisions, and then generates a clear document that, when witnessed, meets all the legal requirements. Try out the site, and send the link to those you care most about."



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