Your Life – Your Choice Advance Planning for Important Healthcare Decisions

BRUNSWICK, Georgia: April 6, 2012 - When is the right time to name someone to speak for you in case of a serious illness? The answer, of course, is when you’re in good health. However, most people are reluctant to talk about their medical wishes for serious illness or end of life. Unfortunately, this can result in family conflict and confusion at a time when you cannot speak for yourself.

In observance of National Healthcare Decisions Day, Southeast Georgia Health System’s Medical Ethics Advisory Committee will host an informative program titled “Advance Planning for Important Healthcare Decisions” on Mon., April 16, 6-7 p.m., in the Linda S. Pinson Conference Center, Room 1, on the Brunswick Campus, 2415 Parkwood Drive. Speakers will present on the topic and will also be available for a question and answer session.

“We encourage all adults, regardless of age or current health, to consider what their health care choices would be if they were unable to speak for themselves, and then make certain their choices are followed by completing an Advance Health Care Directive,” says Amy S. Wasdin, R.N., MBA, CPHRM, director, Risk Management, at Southeast Georgia Health System. “Planning health care decisions in advance helps you make an informed, thoughtful decision when you are not under any pressure."

Wasdin says that people have the right to control their health care options, such as exercising the right to choose in advance whether to accept life-sustaining treatments.

As director of the Health System’s critical care services, Jan Jones, R.N., is all too familiar with the choices that family members are sometimes forced to make.

“An advance directive is your life on your terms,” Jones says. “Whether you're 18 or 80, there’s a risk that an accident or illness could affect your health. Documenting your wishes will make it easier for family to do what they know their loved one wants done.”

Under Georgia state law, adults have the legal right to express their health care wishes and to have them followed. Many people operate under the mistaken impression that it suffices to tell friends and relatives how they wish their care to be managed if they are in a life-threatening situation. However, unless a patient’s wishes have been put in writing, family and/or friends present at the time will be required to help make critical health care decisions with the medical team. In these instances, decisions may be based on the family members’ religious or cultural beliefs, or grief, rather than on the patient’s wishes.

“We encourage everyone to talk with their family, friends, and doctor,” Wasdin says. “They should know their options, decide what’s right for them, and then put it in writing. Legally communicating wishes about end-of-life care will ensure that patients face the end of their lives with dignity and with the same values by which they have lived.”

Georgia law requires certain provisions be included in the advance health care directive, including witness signatures by two people who are not named in the document, for it to be valid.

Advance health care directives will be available at the lecture and are also available at the Southeast Georgia Health System’s Brunswick and Camden campuses.

Once the advance health care directive is completed, individuals should store the document in a safe and easily accessible place, and provide copies to their physician, family and close friends.

For more information, please call the Risk Management Department at Southeast Georgia Health System at 912-466-3261.