National Healthcare Decisions Day


National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) is a national initiative to encourage adults of all ages to plan ahead of a health crisis. Making decisions ahead of time and putting your wishes in writing brings peace of mind to families. It helps to avoid the difficult situations that are so common when a person becomes seriously ill and the family is left to guess what their loved one would have wanted. Another goal of this annual event is to encourage health care providers to discuss the topic with their patients.

Advance care planning involves making future healthcare decisions that include much more than deciding what care you would or would not want; it starts with expressing preferences, clarifying values, identifying health care preferences and selecting an agent to express healthcare decisions if you are unable to speak for yourself. 

Advance care planning starts with talking with your loved ones, your healthcare providers, and even your friends- all are important steps to making your wishes known. These conversations will relieve loved ones and healthcare providers of the need to guess what you would want if you are ever facing a healthcare or medical crisis.

National Healthcare Decisions Day is a collaborative effort of national, state and community organizations committed to ensuring that all adults with decision-making capacity in the United States have the information and resources to communicate and document their future healthcare decisions. 

Complete Your Advance Directive

“Advance Directives” are legal documents (Living Will and Healthcare Power of Attorney) that allow you to plan and make your own end-of-life wishes known in the event that you are unable to communicate.

Completing an advance directive is an important step toward having your healthcare preferences honored.

National Healthcare Decisions Day was founded by Nathan Kottkamp, McGuireWoods LLP.  For complete information regarding National Healthcare Decisions Day, go to

Five Wishes is a United States advance directive created by the non-profit organization Aging with Dignity. It has been described as the “living will with a heart and soul”.[1]

Five Wishes was originally introduced in 1996 as a Florida-only document,[2] combining a living will and health care power of attorney in addition to addressing matters of comfort care and spirituality. With help from the American Bar Association‘s Commission on Law and Aging and leading medical experts, a national version of Five Wishes was introduced in 1998.[3] It was originally distributed with support from a grant by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. With assistance from the United Health Foundation, Five Wishes is now available in 27 languages and in Braille.[4] More than 18 million documents have been distributed by a network of over 35,000 partner organizations worldwide.[5] An online version called Five Wishes Online was introduced in April 2011 allowing users to complete the document using an online interface or print out a blank version to complete by hand.[6]

The Five Wishes

Wishes 1 and 2 are both legal documents. Once signed, they meet the legal requirements for an advance directive in the state of South Carolina and 41 other states. Wishes 3, 4, and 5 are unique to Five Wishes, in that they address matters of comfort care, spirituality, forgiveness, and final wishes.

Wish 1: The Person I Want to Make Care Decisions for Me When I Can’t

This section is an assignment of a health care agent (also called proxy, surrogate, representative, or health care power of attorney). This person makes medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to speak for yourself.

Wish 2: The Kind of Medical Treatment I Want or Don’t Want

This section is a living will—a definition of what life support treatment means to you, and when you would and would not want it.

Wish 3: How Comfortable I Want to Be

This section addresses matters of comfort care—what type of pain management you would like, personal grooming and bathing instructions, and whether you would like to know about options for hospice care, among others.

Wish 4: How I Want People to Treat Me

This section speaks to personal matters, such as whether you would like to be at home, whether you would like someone to pray at your bedside, among others.

Wish 5: What I Want My Loved Ones to Know

This section deals with matters of forgiveness, how you wish to be remembered, and final wishes regarding funeral or memorial plans.

Signing and witnessing requirements

The last portion of the document contains a section for signing the document and having it witnessed. Some states require notarization, and are so indicated in the document.

Legal requirements

According to analysis by the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging,[7] Five Wishes currently meets the legal requirements for an advance directive in 42 states including South Carolina.