WBUR is featuring a series of outstanding programs this week (comprehensive website here) focusing on end-of-life care. Earlier this month (April 16) was the second annual “National Healthcare Decision Day,” which has the goal of ensuring that all adults have both the information and the opportunity to communicate and document their future health care decisions. With the Patient Self-Determination Act of 1990, Congress affirmed the right of every citizen to set forth his or her future health care wishes in writing with an “advance directive.” Yet, surveys suggest that only about 25 percent of all Americans have done so.
The way to make your wishes be known is to have an advance directive and fill out a health care proxy. A Health Care Proxy gives you the ability to document the types of health care you do and do not want, and to name an “agent” to speak for you if you cannot speak for yourself. You can prepare your Health Care Proxy without a lawyer.
Forms for Massachusetts residents (age 18 and over) are available on-line at the Hospice and Palliative Care Federation of Massachusetts The website also has a “Values History” form which you can use to begin the discussion and document your values, beliefs and preferences about end-of-life care. Guidance about choosing a health care agent and making decisions is available through the Better Ending Partnership. A number of Massachusetts organizations, including the Quality and Cost Council’s end-of-life care committee and the Partnership for Healthcare Excellence, have been working to inform consumers about these important tools.
Deborah W. Wachenheim