Living Wills for all…in La Crosse, WI
NPR recently published an interesting and unique piece, entitled “The Town Where Everyone Talks About Death“. Something out of a Stephen King novel, perhaps?
Despite the ominous and morbid sounding title, the article and accompanying radio story is actually about how Bud Hammes, a medical ethicist at a hospital in La Crosse, has encouraged local citizens to discuss end of life care with family and health care providers and to complete advanced medical directives.
What has been the result of this special attention and effort? The article claims that:
“Some 96 percent of people who die in La Crosse have an advance directive or similar documentation. Nationally, only about 30 percent of adults have a document like that.”
The report doesn’t specify exactly what documentation is referenced here, but it appears that it involves Wisconsin’s version of a Living Will (which can be found here).
Wisconsin’s Living Will is similar in nature, though not identical, to the Illinois Living Will (which can be found here).
Comparing the two forms, I actually prefer Wisconsin’s check-the-box approach in that it’s clearer with respect to wishes regarding feeding tubes for those with a ‘terminal condition’.
While this is an important discussion and document to consider, a Living Will is not the only advanced medical directive.
I advise clients that a Living Will can supplement but should not be a substitute for a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. This document addresses not only end of life care, but also allows you to appoint an agent (and successor agents) to speak on your behalf if you’re unable to make medical care decisions for yourself for any reason. Your designated agent is able to ask questions, demand answers, obtain documents — act as your advocate.
96% is good, but I’m happy to report that just about 100% of our estate planning clients have executed a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. And you should too.
What do YOU think about the push for Living Wills in La Crosse and the consequences discussed in the NPR article? Feel free to leave a comment* below.
* commenting will be enabled for all posts going forward as they were several month back — and will remain that way unless I’m unable to successfully ward off the robo-spammers.