Tis The Season to Think About Advanced Healthcare Directives

March 17, 2010

The Hospice of Lancaster County, along with other national, state and community organizations, is leading a new effort to publicize the importance of advance healthcare directives resulting in the formal designation of April 16, 2010 as National Healthcare Decisions Day.

How can you celebrate that day? As a participating organization, Hospice of Lancaster County will be working to educate the Lancaster County community about the importance of advance directives. They will use their Five Wishes, a document that helps people making a living will to express their preferences about end-of-life decision making in a variety of areas. The Five Wishes document will be available in various public libraries throughout the county, as well as at health fairs and expositions.

We certainly agree with Hospice about informing the public about the importance of advance healthcare directives. If designating April 16th as National Healthcare Decisions Day will help to educate the public about the importance of advance healthcare directives, then we want to offer our support too. Even if you have already had documents prepared in the past please remember that in 2007 Pennsylvania significantly changed its law regarding advance healthcare directives, durable healthcare powers of attorney and living wills. April 16 would be a good time for you to assess the following: 

  • Do you have an advance healthcare directive?
  • Was it updated after 2007?
  • Are the people you designated as your surrogates, or as they are now called, your healthcare agents, still the appropriate people?
  • Have you included contact information in your advance healthcare directives so that these persons could be located expeditiously?
  • Have you indicated your preference regarding organ donation?
  • Have you given a copy of your documents to your primary care physician and any specialist whom you see regularly?

If you have difficulty answering any of the above questions, then you should celebrate April 16, 2010 by considering updating your documents. You can consider using the Five Wishes format which Hospice makes available or a form more closely tailored to the relatively new Pennsylvania law in this area. But, the form you use is of less importance than having a current advance healthcare directive that expresses your desires regarding this difficult issue which at some point we must all face.

            Happy National Healthcare Decisions Day 2010!