Monday was National Health Care Decisions Day. A day set aside to educate the public about the importance of advance care planning and to encourage people to express their wishes regarding healthcare. A Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will or Advance Health Care Directive (known by different names depending on your state) are the documents used for this kind of planning. These documents allow your trusted friend or family member to make medical treatment decisions for you, including end of life decisions, if you are unable to communicate your wishes to doctors. Without these documents in place, court involvement may be necessary before decisions can be made on your behalf. In addition, with strong laws in place to protect your private health care information, a HIPAA Authorization allows you to identify who can access your confidential medical records. Extending the powers granted in this document beyond your death can allow loved ones to access these records without the need of court involvement.
We join others around the country this week in encouraging individuals to consider their health care wishes and to put in place the documents that will be necessary to ensure those wishes are followed.