to the editor: I am a member of the Ethics Committee of Wausau Aspirus Hospital in Wausau, Wis. For several years, the committee has designated the first Thursday of the month as “Thoughtful Thursday” to serve anyone in the area who wishes to complete an advance directive. Thirty-minute appointments are available from noon to 4 p.m. on those days. The appointments are staffed by two committee members, or other knowledgeable volunteers, to help community members discuss or complete their documents. We provide copies as needed for them. These services are all provided by the hospital at no charge.
Our approach eliminates the need for the physician to spend time in the office completing advance directive documents. Copies of the documents are regularly sent to physicians' offices, and include referral information about Thoughtful Thursday to give to patients. Local physicians are aware of this service and use it extensively. We publicize the service in hospital and patient literature and through local news outlets, as well as in mailings to other health care professionals in the community (e.g., visiting nurse associations, psychologists, social workers, outpatient therapy offices).
This system gives community members the opportunity to spend as much time as needed to review or complete advance directives. It also frees up the physician from lengthy discussions during busy office hours.