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April is National Healthcare Decisions Month

22 Mar 2024 7:04 AM | Anonymous

George Lange, MD

In 1914 the case of Schloendorff v Society of New York Hospital was the first landmark case that legally established the principle of patient autonomy.  Mary Schloendorff, the plaintiff, explicitly stated her wish not to undergo surgery yet was subjected to a hysterectomy to remove a fibroid tumor without her consent. 

In 1983 the case of Nancy Cruzan led to the patient self-determination act of 1990 that became effective on December 1, 1991.  These legal precedents led to NHDD.

What is NHDD you ask?  NHDD is National Healthcare Decisions Day is that day to raise awareness so people know they have the right to do advance care planning and create an advance directive (ACP &  AD) document.  This Day serves as reminder to those that have created an advance directive to make sure their wishes and goals of care have not changed.  If YOU have not yet completed an advance directive, now is a great time to do ACP and complete an AD.

This Day was founded by Nathan Kottkamp a healthcare attorney in 2008.  Before there was NHDD there was “Virginia Advance Directive Day” in 2006 & 2007.  Then there was 100% hospital participation in Virginia.  Then in 2012 this effort was joined by The Conversation Project, TCP.  This is the 16th year of TCP.  This is to encourage the conversation.

Why are advance care planning and advance directives important?  First and foremost, to get the care YOU want should YOU be unable to speak for yourself.  Next to reduce the burden to those that care about YOU.  This prevents them from guessing from what you would want done to following your goals of care.  To appoint someone who understands YOUR wishes and goals of treatment to be YOUR advocate for the care YOU want.  This person is known as your healthcare power of attorney.  This informed person should advocate for the care YOU want.  You then complete your advance directive, sign it and get it properly witnessed.  This can be completed with or without an attorney.  You keep the original, give a copy to your healthcare agent, a copy to your doctor or healthcare provider and anyone else you feel should have a copy.  Please keep a list of everyone you gave a copy to.  Your physician should have the AD put it in your electronic record.    It is also suggested YOU share this information with your family and friends so they know who YOU chose to be your healthcare agent.  By doing so it will spread the idea that ACP and AD is the adult thing to do.

Key questions you should ask yourself and discuss before doing ACP & AD:

  • ·        What makes your life most meaningful?
  • ·        What does being “healthy” mean to you?
  • ·        What scares you most about being sick?
  • ·        What scares you most about dying?
  • ·        Have you had any experiences that have shaped the way you think about disability and/or death?

All Americans are encouraged to ensure that their future healthcare choices are known and protected.  The process does not take long and it is free.  This is something I have done for myself and hope you will, too.

For additional information please contact Advance Care Planning and Advance Directives by the Wisconsin Medical Society.  By going to “Wisconsin Medical Society” website which is:   www.wismed.org/advancedcareplanning.  There you can download free advance directive forms.  You can complete these forms and have them witnessed by non-family members.  The forms available at this website meet all the Wisconsin law requirements, are reported to be easier to read, many translations are available and are free.  This document does NOT need an attorney or to be notarized by a Notary in the State of Wisconsin. You may also access the websites for The Conversation Project and National Healthcare Decision Day from this website.

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A Legacy of Leadership and Innovation: Established in 1846, the Medical Society of Milwaukee County is an organization of physicians that provides leadership on critical health issues to improve the overall health status of the community.


Medical Society of Milwaukee County

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