April 15, 2013 – Governor Walker has officially proclaimed April 16 as Healthcare Decisions Day in Wisconsin.
Under Wisconsin law, competent adults have the right to accept or refuse medical treatment, and the right to be an organ and tissue donor. An estimated 80 percent of Wisconsin residents, including 50 percent of those with severe or terminal illnesses, have not completed an advance directive documenting their preferences about issues surrounding end-of-life decisions. Studies indicate that despite recent gains in public awareness, most Americans have not exercised their right to make decisions about their health care in the event that they cannot speak for themselves.
“It’s important to make these decisions now in consultation with your family and legal counsel,” said Attorney Ben Adams, adviser to the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Elder Law Section. “If you want your wishes to be met at the end of your life, now is the time to consider future medical care and organ donation.”
To highlight the importance of advance care planning, the State Bar of Wisconsin has produced a video featuring Attorney Adams. The State Bar has also made its consumer guide, A Gift to Your Family: Planning Ahead for Future Health Needs, available for free downloading through the month of April at WisBar.org. Through April, State Bar members also can purchase print copies of the guide for $1, regularly $4.
A Gift to Your Family offers practical insights on a range of issues surrounding end-of-life decisions, such as power of attorney for health care, living wills, and organ and tissue donation. The guide also includes state forms to help people put their wishes in writing.
Andrea Gage is public relations coordinator with the State Bar of Wisconsin. She can be reached at org agage wisbar wisbar agage org, or by phone at (608) 250-6025.
The 24-page A Gift to Your Family, now in its seventh printing, initially was produced in 2000 through a partnership with the Wisconsin Hospital Association, the Wisconsin Medical Society, and Gunderson Lutheran Medical Center. In 2006, the State Bar Communications Committee partnered with the Wisconsin Hispanic Lawyers Association to make the guide available in Spanish. The State Bar has distributed more than 500,000 print planning guides to hospitals, clinics, lawyers, and the public.
“Conversations about end-of-life decisions don’t have to be threatening. It’s just really important to get it done,” said Attorney Adams. “The Gift to Your Family guide on the State Bar website is a perfect place to start.”
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