April 6, 2016 – April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day – a reminder to plan ahead to not keep loved ones in the dark about your end-of-life wishes.
National Healthcare Decisions Day is an annual initiative reminding folks about the importance of advance directive or end-of-life planning. 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.
To help start the conversation – with your clients as well as your family members – download the State Bar of Wisconsin’s end-of-life planning guide, A Gift to Your Family: Planning Ahead for Future Health Needs. The guide is newly updated and available for free downloading for two weeks, beginning April 15.
Under Wisconsin law, competent adults have the right to control decisions about their future medical care, including the right to accept or refuse treatment, and the right to be an organ and tissue donor. 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.
Finding a medical decision maker, and ensuring that they know you and your values is the key to successful end-of-life planning. It’s also the core message in this video produced by the State Bar of Wisconsin.
Newly Updated Planning Guide Available Free April 15 to 29
Wisconsin is participating in the annual initiative, and with Gov. Scott Walker’s proclamation, the State Bar of Wisconsin honors the day by providing members of the public with free access to its new and improved end-of-life planning tool.
“Due to accidents or illness, three out of four people will be unable to make some or all of their medical decisions at the end of life,” said attorney Ben Adams, advisor to the State Bar Elder Law Section. “If this happens to you, doctors need to know who can make decisions for you.”
Adams said that a medical decision-maker needs to have some idea of who the patient is and what his or her values are in order to make decisions on the patient’s behalf.
“If you haven’t named someone in a health care power of attorney document and you become incapacitated or incompetent, then it’s likely that a court proceeding will be needed to appoint a medical decision maker for you,” Adams said. “But the court process can be avoided in most cases if you do advanced care planning.”
The State Bar has distributed more than 500,000 print planning guides to hospitals, clinics, lawyers, and the public. The 24-page A Gift to Your Family, now in its eighth printing, initially was produced in 2000 through a partnership with the Wisconsin Hospital Association, the Wisconsin Medical Society, and Gunderson Lutheran Medical Center. The State Bar Communications Committee later partnered with the Wisconsin Hispanic Lawyers Association to make the guide available in Spanish.