November 27, 2014

Dying with dignity

Governor Walker proclaims today, April 16, Healthcare Decisions Day in Wisconsin.

It’s about dying with dignity, explains Attorney Ben Adams, who is an adviser to the State Bar Elder Law Section. “As Ben Franklin famously said, ‘The only two certain things in life are death and taxes.’ So that’s why April 16th was selected to be National Healthcare Decisions Day,” he says, “So that you can file your taxes on the 15th and then think about the end-of-life decisions that you might want made on the 16th, and plan for that.”

All individuals older than 18 are being urged to complete an advance directive, which documents their preferences about issues surrounding end-of-life decisions, including deciding to accept or refuse medical treatment, and whether to be an organ and tissue donor.

“If you don’t appoint a decision maker,” Adams explains, “someone that you feel confident will know what your values are and will be able to advocate for you if you can no longer make decisions, then who is going to make those decisions?”

Many folks feel their spouse can make their decision on their behalf, though that’s not the case in Wisconsin. Arguably, it would be easier just to die peacefully in one’s sleep, but that’s unlikely. Adams explains approximately 80 percent of people die from a lengthy illness, many of whom don’t have a health care directive.

AUDIO: The case of brain-damaged Terri Schiavo in Florida made national news in the right-to-die battle several years ago. :47

According to Adams, an estimated 80 percent of Wisconsin residents have not completed an advance directive. If you want your wishes to be met at the end of your life, it’s important to have both the documents and the conversation with family and agents.

A consumer guide can be downloaded at no charge for just one week on the State Bar’s website, starting today. Keep those documents in multiple locations — with your family, agent, medical system. If you’ve got a health issue, you might want to keep copy of your directive in your glove compartment or briefcase. Also, he says, some software allows you to make wallet-sized information to keep in your purse or wallet.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 1:29