National Healthcare Decisions Day coming April 16

by Patricia S. Carrera JD Wisconsin Newspaper Ass’n LEGAL EASE

April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day. Healthcare Decisions Day is an important reminder for each of us to complete an advance directive documenting our preferences about issues surrounding end-oflife decisions.

To mark the event, the State Bar will make a web version of its consumer guide, A Gift to Your Family: Planning Ahead for Future Health Needs, available for free downloading for one week, starting on April 16. 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.

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.

“If you want your wishes to be met at the end of your life, you need to consider medical care and organ donation ahead of time and share those thoughts with your family and legal counsel in writing,‚Äù said Attorney Ben Adams, adviser to the State Bar Elder Law Section.

State Bar Elder Law Section member Michael Kujawski knows about the issue of health care decisions, both as an attorney and as a caring relative who was named an agent by two family members. Kujawski said talking about your feelings regarding end-of-life decisions with those close to you is crucial. The conversations may be tough, but your loved ones will appreciate the guidance even if they do not realize it at the time.

“People really need to have the talk. It is such a different experience when you’re the one in the hot seat having to make the decisions,” said Attorney Kujawski. “Dying with dignity is important, and it really needs to be respected.”

A Gift to Your Family, now in its seventh printing, was initially 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.

To learn more about end-oflife planning or to view answers to other commonly asked questions, visit INeedInformation.

This information does not constitute legal advice and is only intended to provide general information about the law. Before making any important legal decisions, you should seek the advice of a lawyer who can provide guidance about your particular circumstances.

Patricia S. Carrera, J.D., is the director of PINNACLE®, the leading provider of continuing legal education (CLE) in Wisconsin. All Wisconsin attorneys are required to earn CLE credits to maintain their licenses and better serve you. With more than 25,000 members, the State Bar also aids the courts in improving the administration of justice, and educates the public about the legal system.

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