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Raising Awareness for Advance Directives


Today marks the third annual National Healthcare Decisions Day, a campaign designed to raise awareness about the need for advance care planning.

Too many of us don’t have this important discussion with our friends and families. Do you know what choices your family members or friends would want made for them in a health care emergency? Do they know the choices you would want them to make for you?

The 1990 Federal Patient Self-Determination Act requires that all Medicare-participating healthcare facilities inquire about and provide information to patients on Advance Directives. All healthcare facilities are required to:

  1. Provide information about health care decision-making rights.
  2. Ask all patients if they have an advance directive.
  3. Educate their staff and community about advance directives.
  4. Not discriminate against patients based on an advance directive status.
  5. The time to learn about advance directives is now, not later. Begin the discussion with yourself, your family, your friends. Make your choices known. If your choices change with time and life experience, make it kno


The National Healthcare Decisions Day website is a wonderful source for resources on making and planning your advance directive.

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An advanced directive will include a living will and a health-care proxy. The living will explains to the healthcare team what kind of care you wish in various situations.

The health-care proxy or a health-care durable power of attorney allows someone of your choice to make decisions about your care when you no longer are able. This should be someone you trust to follow your wishes, even when it is difficult to do. This should be someone who knows what your wishes are. This means you have to discuss and talk about end-of-life issues while you are healthy.

No living will is able to consider all possible scenarios which may occur at the end-of-life. They are guidelines of your wishes for your family and the healthcare team.

Related stories
The Bones of Advanced Directives
Anniversary of Terri Schiavo Death Reminds Us of Need for Advance Directives

Where can I get an advance directive?
Aging With Dignity (Five Wishes)
Caring Connections
Center for Practical Bioethics
Project Grace

AMA News
National Healthcare Decisions Day

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