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National Healthcare Decisions Day

April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day. NHDD is an effort to encourage people to sign a Health Care Power of Attorney and engage in conversations about end-of-life care.

Advance care planning involves making future healthcare decisions that include much more than deciding what care you would or would not want.

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, www.nhpco.org

What is a Health Care Power of Attorney?

A Health Care Power of Attorney is a document that allows you to direct the care you want to receive at or near the end stages of a terminal illness. You also appoint an agent to make decisions about your health care if you become incapacitated. The Health Care Power of Attorney provides written instructions to your agent addressing potential medical situations. 

Your Health Care Power of Attorney is one of the most important parts of your estate plan. In Wisconsin, if you do not have this document, nobody has legal authority to make decisions on your behalf (unless you obtain a court-ordered guardianship).  Not even your spouse.  And if you have children over 18, you have no authority to help your child if they are incapacitated without an advanced directive.

Too many people die in a manner they would not choose, and too many of their loved ones are left feeling bereaved, guilty, and uncertain.

National Healthcare Decisions Day – theconversationproject.org

Why is it so important to appoint an agent?  Medical advances make it possible to prolong your life despite a serious illness, or injury. Simply remaining alive may not be your only goal.  Many of us desire to have a quality life. Few want to simply exist hooked up to a bunch of machines. Your right to have medical treatment withdrawn or withheld is constitutionally protected. The right remains valid even if you become incapacitated

You also have the right to receive medical treatment even in cases that your doctors have deemed further treatment to be beyond hospital ethics standards or applicable laws. But you need an agent to advocate for you.

Leaving your care to local laws and Hospital Ethics guidelines?

As you can imagine, end of life medical care can – and often does – raise ethical and legal issues about your rights, the family’s rights, the medical profession’s role, and the state’s role. Part of this process is having a conversation about your end of life desires.

92% of people say that talking with their loved ones about end of life care is important, but only 32% of people actually have had the conversation.

National Healthcare Decisions Day organizers – nhdd.org

It is critically important that you talk with your loved ones. Especially a person you choose as your agent. Discuss your desires should you lack the capability to make decisions for yourself.  This is a personal decision. Your loved ones will want guidance to carry out your wishes to the best of their abilities. A surprising number of families, disagree over what an ill relative would prefer.  A Health Care Power of Attorney will help to make your wishes clear.  It will give your agent peace of mind.

National Healthcare Decisions Day Resources:

End-of-Life Planning: Free Guide Starts the Conversation

Wisconsin is participating in the annual initiative, and with Gov. Tony Evers’ proclamation, the State Bar of Wisconsin offers members and the public free access to its new end-of-life planning tool.


Bring a shovel: One community’s NHDD story and lessons learned for the future

Wisconsin Community NHDD Blog Post by:
Ellen Koski, MPH, CPH. Director, Fox Valley Advance Care Planning


The Conversation Project

National Healthcare Decisions Day Partner organization


With Dementia, More is Needed than a Boilerplate Advance Directive

Katy Butler, a New York Times author & end-of-life speaker. Post is adapted from her book, “The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life”.  More info on Katy here. 


NHPCO Blog: National Healthcare Decisions Day

Inspire, educate and empower the public about the importance of advance care planning.


Estate Planning: a Gift for your loved ones

National Healthcare Decisions Day related content Blog Post by: Rebecca Mason