Bioethics Blogs

Review Your Directives this National Healthcare Decisions Day

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

This April 16 is the tenth anniversary of National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), a day dedicated to advance care planning—having conversations about end of life care and perhaps completing advance directives. According to the official website, “National Healthcare Decisions Day exists to inspire, educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning.”

Nathan Kottkamp, a health law attorney in Richmond, Virginia and member of several hospital ethics committees founded this event as Virginia Advance Directives Day in 2006. Lawyers, nurses, health care associations, doctors, and community agencies supported that first day. Two years later, he took the model national with the first NHDD. Kottkamp wrote his own directive at 20 years-of-age. Through email, I asked him what inspired him to do so at such a young time in his life. He explained that his major at William & Mary was ethics and between his junior and senior year there, he interned at the New York Citizens’ Committee for Health Care Decisions. Those experiences combined with his interest in bioethics led him fill out his own forms and advocate for others to do so.

Nearly three-quarters of adults do not have advance directives. And of those who have them, most have not discussed them with their health care surrogate or with family. And of those who have done all of the above, fewer can locate their directives. So this year instead of talking about the importance of having these conversations and how to fill out the directives, I am asking those of you have these documents to update them.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.