National Healthcare Decisions Day: Get help with future health care decisions Thursday

When Terri Schiavo collapsed in her Florida home on Feb. 25, 1990 at the age of 26, she had no living will and no written directive that documented her future health care wishes.

For the next 15 years, Schiavo’s family fought over her medical fate in Florida’s judicial system.

The case of Terri Schiavo alerted Americans to the importance of making their health care decisions known, said Michael L. Russo,an attorney for the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate on Fort Benning. According to the Pew Research Center, from 1990 to 2005 the number of people who said they have a living will rose from 12 percent to 29 percent.

April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day, an effort to encourage all Americans with decision-making capabilities to communicate and document their future health care wishes. Fort Benning’s Office of the Staff Judge Advocate as well as Columbus Regional will participate in this effort.

Military retirees and adult military ID card holders can visit The Legal Assistance Division of the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate at Building 359, Ingersoll Street, on post from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. on April 16 for free consultation and preparation of advance medical directives. Call the Legal Assistance Division at 706-545-3281.

At the Columbus Regional Conference Center there will be a community breakfast with a panel consisting of legal, health care and spiritual experts on hand to discuss the issue. It’s free to the public and anyone who wishes to attend from 7:30 a.m. - 9 p.m. should call 706-660-6545 to register.

“A lot of people try not to think about the bad things that could happen to you, but we’re all mortal and we have to realize that someday we’re going to die,” Russo said. “This gives everybody, especially families, an opportunity to reflect upon it and decide, ‘If that were to happen to me what would I want?’”

Learn more about National Healthcare Decisions Day by visiting www.nationalhealthcaredecisionsday.org.

To read more about local efforts on National Healthcare Decisions Day, pick up Wednesday's Ledger-Enquirer or log back on to www.ledger-enquirer.com