In honor of National Healthcare Decisions Day, Life Care Center of Hilo
social service workers will be providing an opportunity for members of the
community to complete their advance directives for free on Tuesday, April 16.
“Completing an advance directive for health care may include naming someone to
speak for the person if the person cannot speak for him/herself. Situations
such as accidents, major strokes, severe injury to the body, can cause
someone to not be able to have good judgment and may require an advance
directive,” said Life Care Center spokeswoman Chris Ridley.
“Advance directives may also include directions on how aggressively the person
would like modern medicine to treat end-of-life issues. Decisions about
utilizing artificial hydration, nutrition and amount of pain medicine are
important questions to have a known preference even when a person cannot
Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatments (POLST) forms will also be
available at the Life Care Center of Hilo Social Service Office. This document
allows the person to express whether or not he/she would like resuscitation
and artificial feeding. The person has a discussion with his/her physician
and both the person completing the document and the physician signs the form.
Nathan Kottkamp, Chairman of National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD),
states, “I serve on several hospital ethics committees as part of my health
law practice, and I am repeatedly confronted with a very disturbing issue.
Time and time again, families, providers, and hospital administrators
struggle to interpret the wishes of patients who never made their health care
wishes known (or failed to complete an advance directive to record their
“These families and professionals do their best to advocate
for what they believe their loved ones or the patient would want or is in
their best interests, but they are inherently doing so without any guidance,
and it is agonizing. I founded National Healthcare Decisions Day April 16
because I know that we — both potential patients and health care
providers — can do a much better job of making our wishes known and then
honoring those wishes to avoid these very sad situations.
“I was just 20 years old when I completed my own advance directive. I was
in college, working for a health care decisions advocacy group. It was
empowering to know that my loved ones knew my wishes. I now know that I was
an outlier to have created an advance directive when I was so young, but the
fact is we all should discuss and document our health care wishes, regardless
of our age or current health status.
“Indeed, the three most famous cases regarding health care decision-making involved women in their 20s: Karen Ann Quinlan, Nancy Cruzan and Terri Schiavo. Need a young male example?
Lance Armstrong was 25 when he was diagnosed with cancer. Of course, beyond
these examples, anyone who has been diagnosed with a serious illness and
anyone with a large family (where there is an inherent possibility of
disagreement) should complete an advance directive, particularly one that
names a specific agent for healthcare decisions,” he explained.
Kottkamp said it is also important for anyone in a long-term relationship, but who is not married, to appoint their loved one as their agent in writing because most states only recognize spouses and blood relatives as default decision-makers under the law.
“Because of these examples and countless others affecting people of all
ages, I have been working diligently with all those who share my vision of
demystifying advance care planning and ensuring that it becomes a routine
part of everyone’s life and health care experiences,” he said.
“Since 2008, NHDD has resulted in over million health care providers
receiving advance directives education, over half a million members of the
general public receiving education, over 14,000 advance directives being
completed, and it has helped raise awareness of the importance of advance
care planning; helped inspire activity that likely would not have taken place
otherwise; and forged several new collaborative efforts.
“But, we’ve still got a long way to go to ensure that everyone has taken action to make his/her wishes known, so I hope to see NHDD grow bigger and better in 2013 and
“As NHDD continues to grow, I hope to see more positive stories in the
media about the shared belief (regardless of politics, religion, or ideology)
that it is important to know a patient’s wishes — whatever they may be — and
to honor those choices to the greatest degree possible. I also look forward
to a massive, ever-growing social media campaign—check us out on Twitter,
Facebook, LinkedIn, campaign to push NHDD out more broadly.
“I hope that everyone will realize that advance care planning is a gift to
loved ones. Studies suggest that most of us know that we should “Have the
Talk” but only about a quarter of us have. I hope that people will mark
their calendars for April 16, in Hilo, Hawaii, assemble their loved ones, and
just do it. Sometimes we just need a catalyst. National Healthcare Decisions
Day is it.”
Please call Social Services at Life Care Center of Hilo, 959-9151, for an
appointment and get your document completed for free.