Free Public Education Forum Looks at End-of-Life Decision Making
Web Editor - Published: April 26, 2009
MedicalLegalOn Thursday April 16th, 2009, Widener Law’s Delaware campus hosted a free public education forum at Widener Law focused on helping people prepare advance directives to make their end-of-life preferences clear. Describing the advance directive, Associate Professor Andrew J. Fichter, executive director of institute programs at the school, noted, “It is a legal document that deals with legal rights, but it is also a document that deals with issues of healthcare.”

Professor Fichter served as moderator for the event, which gather a panel of experts together to discuss end-of-life care issues from several different directions. Dr. John Goodill, Dirctor of Pain Management & Palliative Care and Co-Chair of the Ethics Committee at Christiana Care Health System, spoke first. He enumerated many of the problems that plague end-of-life care and stressed that advance directives “allow a person’s wishes to be known” and “lessen the burden for family or a surrogate decision-maker.”

Donna M. Casey, Nurse Manager & Co-Chair of the Ethics Committee at Christiana Care Health System spoke about how advance directives work in hospitals. She pointed out that Hollywood often glamorizes resuscitation efforts, but that in reality, only about 1% of such patients end up healthy enough to go home again. Brenda K. Pierce, Corporate Counsel for Christiana Care Health System offered a legal perspective on the issue. She recommended “people also sign a Power of Attorney,” in addition to the advance directive, and reminded everyone that an advance directive in Delaware must be signed by the individual, dated, and signed by two witnesses. She ended by encouraging everyone, “Think about it now and not when you’re coming into the hospital.”

Rev. Timothy D. Rodden, Director of Pastoral Services for Christiana Care Health System spoke about the spiritual side of end-of-life care, and encouraged everyone to go to the web site for Aging with Dignity to examine their Five Wishes program. Alan Henderson, Medical Account Executive for Delaware Hospice, Inc. spoke last. Discussing how hospice care can help patients, he said, “It’s not about giving up, it’s about being comfortable.”

Blank advance directive forms and other end-of-life care documents were freely distributed to those in attendance. Widener’s Health Law Institute joined with the Delaware Academy of Medicine, Christiana Care Health System, Delaware Hospice and the Delaware End-of-Life Coalition to sponsor the event.