The authors discuss access to information and education about end-of-life care as barriers to the completion of advance directives. The results of a pilot symposium designed to overcome these barriers are also presented.
Advance directives are legal documents outlining a patient’s preferences for treatment at the end of life. The intent is that the documents will be used if the patient later cannot communicate what end-of-life decisions should be made. The term advance directive is a broad one that includes living wills and healthcare proxies (durable power of attorney).1
Throughout the United States, end-of-life decisions are being made daily without the benefit of advance directives. Unfortunately, patients’ families and loved ones are often unprepared to make these decisions because no discussion about the patients’ preferences has taken place before hospitalization.
The Patient Self-Determination Act, passed by Congress in 1991, requires hospitals, nursing homes, and healthcare programs to ask patients...