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April Observances Increases Awareness of After-Life Healthcare Decisions 

The month of April includes two observances with important healthcare consequences:  National Healthcare Decisions Day and National Donate Life Month.

National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) is celebrated each year on April 16.  This Initiative is a collaborative effort of national, state and community organizations committed to ensuring that all adults with decision-making capacity in the United States have the information and opportunity to communicate and document their healthcare decisions.

While making healthcare decisions is often difficult in the best of circumstances, making decisions for others is even more complicated. Advance directives give individuals the ability to document the types of healthcare they do and do not want, and to name an “agent” to speak for them if they cannot speak for themselves.

With the Patient Self-Determination Act of 1990, Congress affirmed the right of every citizen to set forth his or her future healthcare wishes in writing with an “advance directive.” Yet, various estimates suggest that only about 25% of all Americans have done so.  Because advance directives can be created without a lawyer, for free, and relatively easily, this figure is astonishingly low.  In recognition of this, National Healthcare Decisions Day strives to provide much-needed information to the public, reduce the number of tragedies that occur when a person’s wishes are unknown, and improve the ability of healthcare facilities and providers to offer informed and thoughtful guidance about advance healthcare planning to their patients.

In conjunction with NHDD, the entire month of April is National Donate Life Month. According to the OrganDonor.Gov website, National Donate Life Month was established in 2003 so that every day in April "people across the U.S. can make a special effort to celebrate the tremendous generosity of those who have saved lives by becoming organ, tissue, marrow, and blood donors and to encourage more Americans to follow their fine example."

Although there have been advances in medical technology and donation, the demand for organ, eye and tissue donation still vastly exceeds the number of donors:

  • More than 100,000 men, women and children currently need life-saving organ transplants.
  •  Every 10 minutes another name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list.
  • An average of 18 people die each day from the lack of available organs for transplant.

The OrganDonor.Gov  website suggests the following ways to make your organ donation intentions known:

  1. Register with your State Donor Registry.
  2. Say yes to donation on your driver's license.
  3. Tell your family, friends, physician, and faith leader that you want to be a donor.
  4. Fill out and sign a donor card, have it witnessed, carry it with you.

Joshua Allee, chaplain at St. Francis Hospital & Health Services, is willing to help those interested in completing their organ donor information or their advance directives.  To set up an appointment, please call (660) 562-2600, ext. 5200.

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