What Are Living Wills? NHPCO Offers Free Advance Care Planning Resources

Saturday, March 13, 2010 Education News J E 4

ALEXANDRIA, Va., March 12 Over the past weeks, Keith Olbermann has shared personal experiences regarding his father's health crisis on MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann." On yesterday's broadcast (03/11/10) Olbermann spoke about the necessity of completing a living will and appointing a health care proxy.

"Talking with families about health care wishes and completing living wills while you are healthy is about living fully," said J. Donald Schumacher, president and CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. "Planning ahead and understanding the choices you and your loved ones might face during a medical crisis has nothing to do with the infamous 'death panels' that have caused such confusion; it is about honoring family."

NHPCO's Caring Connections initiative offers a range of materials and information free of charge -- including state specific advance directive forms -- at

"Planning ahead is about preparing for the future today," Schumacher added.

What are Advance Directives?

An advance directive -- often called a living will -- allows you to document your wishes concerning medical treatments and care when facing a medical crisis or at the end of life.

A medical power of attorney -- also known as a health care proxy -- is part of advance care planning. This allows you to appoint a person you trust as your health care agent (or surrogate decision maker), who is authorized to make medical decisions on your behalf. Before a medical power of attorney goes into effect a person's physician must conclude that they are unable to make their own medical decisions.

Advance directives are legally valid throughout the United States. It is important to complete and sign advance directives that comply with your state's law. However, you do not need a lawyer to complete and execute a living will or health care power of attorney.

Each Caring Connections, state-specific advance care planning packet comes with complete step-by-step instructions. The documents are free of charge.

Visit to learn more about planning ahead for the unthinkable before a crisis. Information is also available from the HelpLine at 1-800-658-8898.

Available Topic Expert(s): For information on the listed expert(s), click appropriate link.

J. Donald Schumacher, PsyD

SOURCE National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization


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