To the editor:
On Monday, April 16, National Health Care Decisions Day, I urge you to take some time to have a thoughtful conversation with family members and loved ones about your end-of-life health care decisions and to complete an advanced directive. By having these conversations and documenting your wishes in an advanced directive, your health care decisions will be respected by health care professionals and your personal wishes will be honored.
Discussing end-of-life decisions before they are needed can help you and your family prepare for any emergency. By completing an advanced directive, you can provide useful guidance to loved ones and health care providers so that your wishes will be honored in the event you cannot speak for yourself. You can fill out an advanced directive without hiring a lawyer. It is easy to do and it is free.
Massachusetts recognizes two main forms of advanced directives:
A Massachusetts Health Care Proxy is a simple, legal document that allows you to appoint someone you know and trust to make decisions on your behalf if you cannot speak for yourself.
Five Wishes is a "living will," a legal document that instructs your family and your health care providers about your personal, emotional and spiritual needs and your medical wishes at the end of life.
It is important to ask yourself: Who will speak for me and respect my health care choices if I am unable to do so? You can find more information on advanced directives at www.nationalhealthcaredecisionsday.org.
John G. Albert
Merrimack Valley Hospice