Critical Path Network

Advance directives issued in nationwide campaign

Aging with Dignity, the United Health Foundation, the American Hospital Association, and other national and local organizations will distribute 500,000 advance directives in the coming year in a campaign to help patients and families make important advance decisions about end-of-life care.

The "Five Wishes" directive, available in 20 languages, addresses an individual's medical, personal, emotional, and spiritual needs before a health care crisis. It is recognized as a legal and binding document in 40 states and used as a model to prepare directives in the other 10.

"The conversations need to be with families, so at the end of life, families are not torn apart," Ruth Sullivan, president-elect of the Society for Healthcare Consumer Advocacy and director of patient and family advocacy for Shore Health System in eastern Maryland, said recently at a briefing on the campaign.

Copies of the translated Five Wishes documents were to be sent at the end of June to all U.S. hospitals, as well as to consumer advocates and volunteers. More information on the campaign is available at www.agingwithdignity.org.