National Healthcare Decisions Day 2015 is Coming

This year, National Health Care Decisions Day–a day to encourage people to do advance healthcare planning–is set for Thursday, April 16, 2015. I’ve written about NHDD the past couple of years, and I’m doing it again this year to encourage people to take control over their healthcare decisions.

Although NHDD is still a few weeks away, I want to talk about it ahead of time for 2 reasons: 1) to encourage you to do it, and 2) to give you a chance to think about what your healthcare decisions are. Sometimes, it seems to me that people wait until the moment they sign the documents and make the decisions at the last minute. Ultimately, they’re your decisions, and you have the right to make them that way, but I encourage you to reflect on these issues ahead of time.

What kind of decisions are we talking about? Here are the kinds of questions you should consider, which I’ve adapted from Compassion & Choices Magazine’s Good to Go Resource Guide (page 4, it’s worth your time):

  • What is an acceptable quality of life to you?
  • What are your religious/spiritual beliefs about death, dying, and treatment for the terminally ill?
  • If you were terminally ill, what treatments would you want to receive? Which treatments would you want to refuse?
  • If you were unable to eat and drink on your own while suffering from a terminal condition, would you want artificial nutrition and hydration?
  • Who do you want to be involved in making these decisions? Likewise, who do you not want to have involved?

I also encourage people to seek out the opinions of doctors, religious leaders, and other advisers about these decisions. These are not simple questions.

For Missourians, the Missouri Bar has forms available for advanced healthcare planning (note: there may be a need for notaries and witnesses, depending on what you do with those forms, so be careful about just printing them, filling them out, and signing them…that might not be enough). You might want to check out my earlier post on powers of attorney to learn more about how POAs work, while you’re at it. For those of you who might be reading this from some other state, you might look at your state’s bar or NHDD’s Public Resources page. Missourians, you may find that page helpful too, because in addition to the legal issues, it has a number of links to places where you can learn about thinking through and talking about your healthcare choices.

Why participate in National Healthcare Decisions Day?

  1. To make sure that your family and your doctors know what you want in case you can’t tell them.
  2. To have a plan in place in case you experience a sudden illness or injury that keeps you from being able to communicate those decisions.
  3. To appoint someone to make those decisions for you if necessary, so that doctors know who to rely on for instructions.
  4. To spare your family the uncertainty–perhaps a painful uncertainty–of trying to guess what your wishes are.
  5. To get the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you have a plan in place.

If that weren’t enough:

Along with some of my fellow Missouri attorneys, I’ll be volunteering to help people prepare their Durable Powers of Attorney for Healthcare Decisions on National Healthcare Decisions Day. I’m still working out the site and the exact time, but I will update this post and other outlets when I have the details nailed down. Details for this year’s event are available here.

Note: Portions of this post were re-used from my post on NHDD 2014, which is probably not that surprising.

Image credit: Flickr user takomabibelot, licensed under CC 2.0

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