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Advance Directives: Let's Make a Law

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, April 11, 2014

I should've done it six years ago, when my wife, pregnant with twins, decided it would be a good idea for her to have one. Typically, she followed through. She gently pressured me to do one too, but I never did, and she never pushed too hard. I suppose I'm like most folks. I didn't like talking about it with her then, and I don't like thinking about it for myself now, and hey, isn't there a baseball game on?

So I've run out of excuses. All mine needs now is the signature of two witnesses and my wife.

Find your own state-specific advance directive form, and encourage everyone you know to do so as well.  It's easy. But hard. And that's the problem.

Make It a Medicare Requirement
Banner Health CEO Peter Fine says we, as a nation, should make completing a living will and medical power of attorney a part of the Medicare application process. His reasoning:

  • It would likely make a big dent in healthcare costs
  • It doesn't take long
  • It will help significantly improve quality of life, peace of mind, and dignity for families in time of stress

"Costs would be reduced significantly if you forced every Medicare enrollee to have a healthcare power of attorney or living will and for them to produce this document at enrollment," Fine says. "Having gone through this with my own mother, both my wife and I have living wills, and our kids have copies so in a stressful time, they know exactly what to do."

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3 comments on "Advance Directives: Let's Make a Law"


YeahRight (5/8/2014 at 3:30 PM)
I will never have a public advance directive. I will have a private letter to the person(s) I choose to represent me when I am unable. I will do this because I saw first hand the abuse that came when a hospital thought they had decision making powers. If my father had had an advance directive they would have killed him. Hell, they tried to anyway, with me as his medical power of attorney protesting all the way. Had they had a "legal" document to back them they would have proceeded against my will to stop treatment of a man who, once released from their dubious "care" went on to live another decade.

Alene Nitzky (4/14/2014 at 10:53 AM)
It's nice to see media attention to healthcare leaders acting on behalf of the public's well-being, taking the bull by the horns, and not solely for their own personal gain, and just worried about their voiced opinions affecting patient satisfaction scores. I have often wondered if organizations like the ACHE ever discuss the moral and ethical obligations of health care leaders to the public they serve, and the people who do the hard work in their organizations. We need to work toward a more humane health care system, for all: patients, families, health care workers, and the public.

donaldstumpp (4/11/2014 at 2:58 PM)
To your point Phil about even just getting started on the healthcare problem with the Medicare or even over 50 population, maybe the first step if for Medicare Advantage plans to lead the way. 25% of Medicare patients choose them and since it is a choice, maybe MA plans could make this part of their enrollment. If 1 in 4 of the Medicare population is doing this, maybe the stigma begins to go away and there's more voluntary adoption.