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Published on April 19th, 2017

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St. Luke’s Ethics Committee to Participate in National Healthcare Decision Day

Information About Advanced Directives at SLUHN Locations April 16-22

If you work at the bedside, you may have encountered a family faced with decisions about life-sustaining measures for a loved one. Perhaps you’ve even experienced such a decision in your personal life.

Whether it’s taking your loved one off a respirator, electing hospice, or some other decision, making a decision that will likely shorten life is a heavy responsibility – even in the best of situations. In worst-case scenarios, family members strongly disagree, creating strained relationships that never heal.

But there is something you can do to avoid this in your own life. Start the conversation. Talk with your parents, spouse, adult children and best friend about what life-sustaining measures they would want, and just as importantly, NOT want. And, who would they want to make decisions on their behalf if they were unable to understand, make or communicate their medical choices. Also, make these decisions for yourself and share your wishes with your loved ones.

Appreciating the difficulty of end-of-life health care decisions, the St. Luke’s Biomedical Ethics Committee will participate in National Healthcare Decision Day the week of April 16 to 22, by setting up information tables at various locations. The project is being coordinated by Palliative and Supportive Care Social Worker Megan Williams, LCSW.

The committee’s goal is to get people talking about their wishes related to life-sustaining measures, developing a plan, and sharing it with their loved ones. By doing so, they can ensure that their wishes would be followed should they ever be unable to communicate for themselves.

For your information, every patient admitted to the hospital is asked whether they have an advanced directive. If they do, they are asked to provide a copy, which becomes part of their medical record. If they do not, they are offered the opportunity to meet with a case manager who will provide information about advanced directives. As a health care worker, you are not expected to advise patients and families about advance directives. If asked about it, tell your supervisor or the unit nursing supervisor. A case management consult can be ordered for the patient.

But, don’t wait until you or your loved one is hospitalized. We recommend starting the conversation while sitting with your loved ones in your family room or around your kitchen table. The decisions made in a clear state of mind might be different than those made while under stress in a crisis situation. By making an advance directive, you’re letting your loved ones know what you want so they can honor your decision, so they don’t have to make the decision. It’s a gift that you give them.

During National Healthcare Decision Day week, the St. Luke’s Biomedical Ethics Committee will provide information on Thursday, April 20 at:

  • St. Luke’s University Hospital, 801 Ostrum Street, Bethlehem, Lobby A & B, 1-3 pm
  • St. Luke’s Hospital Allentown Campus, 1736 Hamilton Street, Allentown, Cafeteria, noon to 2 pm
  • St. Luke’s Hospital Anderson Campus, 1872 St. Luke’s Boulevard, Easton, Cafeteria, 11 am-1 pm
  • St. Luke’s Hospital Warren Campus, 185 Roseberry Street, Phillipsburg, Lobby, 1-3 pm
  • St. Luke’s Hospital Quakertown Campus, 1021 Park Avenue, Quakertown, Lobby, 11 am-1 pm
  • St. Luke’s Hospital Miner’s Campus, 360 West Ruddle Street, Coaldale, Lobby, 4:30-7:30 pm
  • St. Luke’s Hospital Monroe Campus, 100 St. Luke’s Lane, Lobby, 11 am-1 pm
  • St. Luke’s VNA, 240 Union Station Plaza, Bethlehem, Staff Kitchen, 11:45 am-1 pm
  • St. Luke’s Cancer Center, 240 Cetronia Road, Allentown, Lobby 8:30 am to 3:30 pm
  • St. Luke’s Hospice House, 2455 Black River Road, Bethlehem, Lobby 8:30 am-3:30 pm
  • St. Luke’s Southside Medical Center, 511 East 3rd Street, Bethlehem, 2ndFloor Lobby, 9-11 am
  • St. Luke’s North, 153 Brodhead Road, Bethlehem, Lobby 9-11

The Committee invites you to visit information tables. A member of the Biomedial Ethics Committee will man each table and provide printed information about advanced directives, such as living wills.

Advance directives go into effect only when one cannot understand, make, or communicate wishes for medical choices and has an end-stage medical condition or is permanently unconscious. Expressing wishes about life support and other medical treatment, a living will should cover:

  • What kind of medicine and life support measures are wanted and NOT wanted
  • How comfortable does the individual want to be
  • What medical information can be shared with loved ones

A health care power of attorney names a health care agent – someone the person trusts to make health care decisions on their behalf should they be unable to do so. It describes what decisions the health care agent can make, as well as when and how.

For more information, visit the following websites:

National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) exists to inspire, educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning. NHDD is an initiative to encourage patients to express their wishes regarding healthcare and for providers and facilities to respect those wishes, whatever they may be. The theme for 2017 is “It Always Seems Too Early, Until It’s Too Late.”

For more information, contact Megan Williams at 484-526-2042. Also, you may find the following documents may be helpful:


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