Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Making Good Health Care Decisions: What is a “Pink Card” and Should You Have One?

 Imagine that you have been injured in an accident and are unable to make important medical decisions for yourself. Who should make those decisions for you? How will the Doctor and Hospital know who is authorized to speak on your behalf? The law allows you to name your spokesperson, but most people have never made that vital choice. 

In 2006, a Williamsport Pennsylvania  physician, Dr. Alexander Nesbitt, set out to make his community different.   

The first step was to develop procedures to make sure that health providers were effectively communicating patient wishes between themselves. The result was the adoption of a POLST Form (Physician Order for Life Sustaining Treatment) by local hospitals and nursing facilities.

Melissa Bottorf and I of Marshall, Parker & Associates got involved with Dr. Nesbitt's efforts at this point. Under the guidance of Dr. Nesbitt, and with the help of Roseanne Pelleschi, Cathy Stopper, and a number of other local leaders, a county-wide task force was created to come up with ways to ensure that local residents receive the care they want when they are not able to speak for themselves. 
It was only natural for the task force to move on from health professionals and POLST documents to advance directives for all the residents of the community.  The problem was – how to provide an easy and no cost way for adults to designate the person they want to be their health care spokesperson. 

With the help of grant money from the First Community Foundation, The Lycoming United Way, and the Blue Ribbon Foundation, the task force developed the concept of “Pink Cards.”

Pink Cards are a free and easy way for Pennsylvania residents to appoint their health representative. Your Pink Card names the person you have chosen. This person will be authorized to guide your treatment if you ever lose the ability to make decisions. The Pink Card can be carried in your wallet or purse so that your doctor and other health care professionals will know who is in charge and how to contact that person. 

Planning in advance is an important task for all of us, whether young or old, healthy or facing challenges. By carrying a Pink Card, Pennsylvania residents of all ages can now make their choices known about who will guide their health care in the event of an emergency.

You can obtain a free “Pink Card” and explanatory booklet in any one of the following ways:
  1. By calling Linkage Lycoming at 570-323-8555.
  2. By visiting the Linkage Lycoming website: http://www.stepcorp.org/linkage/linkage.htm
  3. Many doctors and other health care professionals in Lycoming County Pennsylvania are making Pink Cards available to their patients.
  4. Pink Cards are available at community events where members of the Task Force are staffing information booths.
Designating your representative is an important first step in ensuring that the right medical decisions will always be made for you.  In addition to distributing Pink Cards, the Northcentral Pennsylvania Advance Care Planning Task Force is also available to help individuals and groups in Lycoming County understand the process of advance care planning. Its goal is to help area residents control their health care by becoming more knowledgeable about options, discussing their views with their family and other caregivers, and documenting their decisions. Contact the Task Force through Linkage Lycoming at 570-323-6555 for more information. 

DISCLAIMER: This general information is not intended, and should not be construed as legal advice. This posting does not create any attorney client relationship. Its author is licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania. For specific advice about your particular situation, consult a lawyer who is licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.

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