April 16, 2010 is Health Care Decisions Day, a national campaign to encourage Americans to complete their advance directives, living wills, and basically document their preferences regarding medical treatment at the end of life.
Researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor have discovered that almost a third of patients over the age of 60 would eventually become so incapacitated that they would be unable to express their preferences regarding end of life treatment. Patients who specified all care possible in their living wills were far more likely to receive aggressive care as opposed to those who didn’t.
The number of individuals who possess living wills has increased over the years. Without these documents, they patient remains vulnerable despite whether or not they had end of life discussions with their doctors. With 40 million new patients in the healthcare system and the decreasing number of physicians , end of life discussions are becoming nearly impossible.
An attorney is not needed to obtain these documents. Patients can designate a healthcare proxy. A healthcare proxy is a trusted friend or relative who can make decisions for a patient. Proxies won’t have as much of an effect as a documented living will, but it’s a good backup.
For Full Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/16/health/15chen.html