Columbia, SC — With the Patient Self-Determination Act of 1990, Congress affirmed the right of all citizens to set forth their future health-care wishes in writing, with an “advance directive.” Yet only about 25 percent of us have done so.
While making health-care decisions is difficult in the best of circumstances, making decisions for others is even more complicated. Each of us has the ability to guide our health-care providers and our loved ones about what we want.
Advance directives allow us to document the types of health care we do and do not want, and to name an agent to speak for us if we cannot speak for ourselves. As Terri Schiavo’s situation demonstrated, having an advance directive can be valuable for all adults, regardless of age or health status.
Forms approved by S.C. law are widely available at no cost and can communicate your wishes to your family, friends and health-care providers, including decisions about medical treatments you may elect to receive or decline, what you want your loved ones to know about your health and who you want to make sure your wishes are followed.
Please visit nhdd.org for tools to assist with thoughtful reflection on your choices. Locally, the S.C. Bar routinely hosts free legal clinics on end-of-life issues such as establishing health-care powers of attorney, living wills and do-not-resuscitate orders. These clinics involve a 30-45 minute presentation followed by either a question-and-answer or five-minute one-on-one session with an attorney. A complete schedule, in addition to free information on advance-care planning, is available at scbar.org/public. Please share this information with your family and friends.
Your decisions matter. However, others need to know your wishes in order to honor them. There are no wrong answers when thinking about health-care choices and completing an advance directive.
Tuesday is National Healthcare Decisions Day, which was created to provide all adults with decision-making capacity the information and opportunity to communicate and document their future health-care decisions. Please use this day to decide, discuss and document your wishes, whatever they may be.
Angus H. Macaulay
President, S.C. Bar