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State releases new form that will help patients' families make end-of-life decisions, P.2

In our last post, we began speaking about a new form developed by the state of New Jersey and the New Jersey Hospital Association that allows patients to avoid the situation where their family doesn't know their goals and wishes for end-of-life care. The form, we noted, is separate for an advance health care directive commonly used in the estate planning process.

The form asks patients to identify goals for the care they will receive, then it asks the patient about their wishes regarding medical interventions. This includes questions about whether the patient wishes to receive artificial nutrition, whether they wish to be resuscitated and other such issues.

The form is expected to reduce the amount of money spent on end-f-life care in the state, since patients often prefer to receive less-aggressive treatment when they are faced with a life-shortening illness. Interestingly, New Jersey is among a group of states in which patients spend the highest number of days in the final two years of their lives; have the highest number of physicians treating them; and spend the most on life-sustaining treatment.

It is hoped that the form will give direction to family members of patients who are incapacitated, and who often agree to interventions without understanding whether the patient would actually desire them. More than anything, the form is meant to reduce the challenges that inevitably arise because of inadequate planning.

Without knowing what a patient wants, family members are often left guessing. Because families do not always understand the implications of decisions they make for a loved one, they can end up in situations they may not have imagined.

Source: njspotlight.com, "New Form Helps Clarify End-of-life Decisions for Patients and Families," Andrew Kitchenman, February 25, 2013

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