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For Release:
April 15, 2011

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.
Acting Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications

DHSS Recognizes National Health Care Decisions Day; Stresses Importance of Easing Decision-Making Burden on Families

In recognition of National Health Care Decisions Day on April 16, Health and Senior Services Acting Commissioner Mary O’Dowd encourages New Jerseyans to consider advance planning to document their important health care decisions for treatment and care should they become unable to communicate these preferences. National Health Care Decisions Day highlights the importance of having an advance directive.
“The best way to ensure that your dignity and autonomy are honored should you become unable to make your own health care decisions is by sharing your wishes about end of life medical treatment through an advance directive,” said Acting Commissioner O’Dowd.  “Having a clearly written directive and talking to your family about your wishes can alleviate the stress of making health decisions for loved ones.”
New Jersey has two kinds of advance directives, a “proxy directive” and an “instruction directive.”  A proxy directive, sometimes known as a durable power of attorney for health care, is a document that designates the person you want to make health care decisions for you in the event you become unable to make them yourself.  An instruction directive, sometimes known as a living will, documents your values, beliefs and goals as they relate to your preferences for certain medical treatment. 
The Department’s web site provides forms, tools and guidance to help create your own personal advance directive. The Department’s online resources, available at, include advance directive forms, educational materials, toolkits for completing an advance directive and links to web sites with additional information on hospice and palliative care.  The Department of State also maintains a will registry to assist with advance planning.  For more information, please visit
“AARP believes that knowing how to get the care you want when you can no longer speak for yourself and how to serve as a medical or end-of-life decision-maker for a loved one is a vitally important issue,” said Douglas Johnston, AARP NJ Government Affairs Manager. “Taking an active role in your end-of-life care isn’t just for older persons. Accidents and illnesses can also happen at any time to young people. That’s why it is so important to fill out your advance directives now — before a crisis happens.”
National Health Care Decisions Day is sponsored by many national, state and community organizations including the AARP, American Medical Association, American Bar Association and National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. 
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