American Bar Association Section of Real Property Probate and Trust Law Coordinates National Educational Effort National Health Care Decisions Week

CHICAGO,--When a major illness strikes, or when a loved one dies, many families face making difficult choices with no guidance or information. This happens because so many Americans avoid thinking about death or incapacity, and don't know that they can plan ahead for end-of-life health care decisions, thereby easing the burden on their loved ones. Advance directives, for example, can be used to specify preferences about medical treatment, and to name substitute decision makers in the event of incapacity.

Advance directives can also help save lives by providing for organ and tissue donation at the time of death.

The American Bar Association Section of Real Property, Probate and Trust Law is working to increase public awareness about the value of making advance decisions for health care and organ and tissue donation.

National Health Care Decisions Week, Oct. 21-27, 2001, is a program co-sponsored by the ABA and American Medical Association with funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It provides for community outreach and educational efforts about health care decision making.

During this week, a number of state and local bar associations around the country will participate in community-based programs to help individuals understand what health care advance directives and donation declarations are, and provide pro bono assistance with preparation of these documents.

"It is sad to say that tragic events in recent weeks have made us focus on the need to plan ahead, to realize how suddenly our lives can change. We need to think about planning for the future. A living Will, advance health care directive and organ and tissue donation directive can provide peace of mind to families and lift the burden of dealing with these difficult choices in a time of grief," said David Tang of Seattle, chair of the Section of Real Property, Probate and Trust Law. "A health care directive can ensure that an individual's decision on whether to accept or refuse medical care is followed."

Efforts for this year's National Health Care Decisions Week are being coordinated by Linda Whitton, Valparaiso, Ind., chair of the section's Health Care Decisions Committee.

For more information about National Health Care Decisions Week and materials about health care advance directives and organ and tissue donation, visit the section's Web site at http://www.abanet.org/rppt or call 312/988-5670.

Other ABA entities supporting this effort include the sections of Dispute Resolution, Family Law, Health Law, Law Practice Management, State and Local Government Law, the Division of Government and Public Sector Lawyers the

Senior Lawyers Division, and the Commission on Legal Problems of the Elderly.