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National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) is held on April 16 each year. It exists to inspire, educate and empower the public and healthcare providers about the importance of advance care planning. The NHDD initiative encourages patients to express their wishes regarding healthcare, and providers and facilities to respect those wishes, whatever they may be. NHDD was founded in 2008 to provide clear, concise, and consistent information on healthcare decision-making to both the public and providers through the widespread availability and dissemination of simple, free, and uniform materials and content to guide the process.

It is somewhat ironic that NHDD will occur this year during a worldwide pandemic. As a result, during this unprecedented time of social distancing and other mitigation measures, many NHDD-related events have been cancelled. Still, advance care planning remains as important as ever. The ongoing COVID-19 crisis serves as a reminder of the importance of doing advance planning should you ever be stricken with an illness or medical condition that could render you incapable of making an important decision about your own care.

“It is essential for people to consider who would speak for them if they became unable to make their own decisions when they are very sick,” said Dr. Alexander Nesbitt, a geriatrician at UPMC Susquehanna. “It’s also important to consider and communicate preferences about care that would be wanted. National Healthcare Decisions Day is an opportunity to consider, discuss and document what you do or don’t want.”


A Health Care Power of Attorney, also referred to as an Advance Health Care Directive, is a document that allows you to appoint a person, or group of people, to be able to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable to do so. This document can be written such that you are still in control of your health care decisions so long as you are able, even by blinking your eyes, to make informed health care decisions. However, it allows you to tell your medical providers who they are allowed to consult if you are unconscious or incapacitated.

Similarly, it is important to ensure that your health care documents include living will provisions, or evidence of your wishes for end-of-life treatment. For example, if you were in a vegetative state and your physician concludes that there is no realistic hope of recovery, would you want to receive artificial nutrition (tube feeding) to keep you alive as long as possible, or would you rather receive comfort measures and be allowed to pass away naturally? You are in control of these decisions, and these documents allow you to give a written record of your wishes to ensure they are respected, even if you are not able to express them. 

At Steinbacher, Goodall & Yurchak, we assist clients in developing Health Care Powers of Attorney, as well as numerous other types legal documents and advance planning. We are a full-service elder law firm that specializes helping our clients prepare for their second half of life, and we remain open and in remote operation to serve our clients during the COVID-19 outbreak. For more information, call 570-322-2077 for a free consultation.

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