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Take control of your life through advance directives

Published: April 18, 2012 4:00 AM

National Health Care Decisions Day will be celebrated across the country on Monday, April 16.

National Health Care Decisions Day ensures adults' decision-making power over their own lives regarding health care. Though more people are taking measures to document the type of care they might or might not want to receive in the event of a catastrophe, still only 29 percent of Americans have a living will.

A living will, also known as an advance directive, is a written document that takes effect if a person acquires a terminal condition and is not able to speak for himself. A completed health-care power of attorney will appoint a family member or friends to make medical decisions on a person's behalf if he becomes unable to do so, such as during a period of temporary unconsciousness following an accident or surgery, and tells physicians and others what medical care to provide.

In contrast, a living will provides written guidelines for physicians, particularly when the person has a terminal condition and cannot speak for himself. The document speaks for the patient as to what treatment he wants and does not want to receive. Discussing wishes with family members and filling out advance directives relieves families from the guesswork and potential family disagreement later.

The Ohio Hospice and Palliative Care Organization offers an advance-directives packet used to create a living will or health-care durable power of attorney, or to designate organ or tissue donation. Ohioans can fill out these forms without an attorney and should make several copies for their personal files to give to trusted family members, physicians, lawyers and others.

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Copies of the State-of-Ohio living will and health-care power of attorney documents are available at the Information Desk at Union Hospital.

They can also be found online at: http://www.ohanet.org/Issue/Advance Directives.

To learn more about National Health Care Decisions Day and receive free information, see www.nhdd.org.

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