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Decisions About Treatment Before You're Sick

Dominique Kim, MPH, formerly of Partners HealthCare System reminds people that making health care decisions in advance of an illness can prevent anguish and confusion in the future:

Today is the the 3rd Annual National Healthcare Decisions Day. And despite efforts to promote patient awareness of advance health care planning, few Americans have executed an advance directive (a legal document that protects your right to refuse medical treatment you do not want, or to request treatment you do want, in the event you lose the ability to make decisions yourself.) Partners Healthcare System is working with various organizations to highlight the importance of advance health care decision-making.

National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) is a collaborative effort of national, state and community organizations committed to ensuring that all adults with decision-making capacity in the United States have the opportunity to communicate and document their healthcare decisions.

The Massachusetts Healthcare Proxy lets you name someone to make decisions about your medical care—including decisions about life support—if you can no longer speak for yourself. The Healthcare Proxy is especially useful because it appoints someone to speak for you any time you are unable to make your own medical decisions. (Massachusetts does not have a statute governing the use of living wills.)

NHDD organizers (from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization) are asking everyone in the state, whether as individuals or as a group, to help raise awareness about the importance of completing an advance directive (or a health care proxy) on this day. Check out the NHDD website, which has educational materials and resources to help providers and the public.

For more information, also check out:

Caring Connections – A consumer oriented website created by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. This site has useful brochures and handouts to help start a conversation with patients.

Massachusetts Medical Society – Their site lists the steps a patient should take to execute a healthcare proxy, with links to Massachusetts forms.

This program aired on April 16, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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