National Healthcare Decisions Day April 16

April 16, 2011 is National Healthcare Decisions Day. This initiative is a collaborative effort to ensure all adults with decision-making capacity in the U.S. have the information and opportunity to communicate and document their healthcare decisions.  See for more information.

Enacted in 1990, the Federal Patient Self-Determination Act requires all Medicare-participating healthcare facilities and providers to ask about and make available information on Advance Directives. This legislation gives people the right to make choices and decisions about the types and extent of medical care they wish for themselves. They can also identify a legal representative to make healthcare decisions if they become unable to make decisions for themselves. If a person establishes a living will or durable power of attorney for healthcare or mental health purposes, the patient is acting on his/her rights of self determination.

I remember back in 1991 being trained as one of the people responsible for making sure that the hospital I worked in met the requirements of the legislation. It was an empowering experience. I wish I could say that since that time most people are aware and have acted on this right to self determination by completing a living will and medical power of attorney. Unfortunately, many people still are unfamiliar with the documents or have not taken the time to communicate their wishes in writing. Let’s take this time to learn more about Advance Directives.

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