Most Americans Do Not Have Health Directives

Several years ago, Terry Schiavo’s life and death captivated the country and fueled conversations about the necessity of the documents, known as advance directives or living wills.   

“Even though millions witnessed a worse-case scenario, there’s no indication it had a lasting impact on getting more people to make their wishes known,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance.

The protracted family fight over keeping Schiavo alive, and her ultimate death March 31, 2005, plastered her story in headlines and prompted an immediate spike in Americans filling out advance directives. But while Schiavo’s struggle remains in the minds of many, the momentum it created for writing the instructions appears to have ebbed. 

End-of-life experts estimate that about the same percentage of U.S. adults have advance directives as before the Schiavo case and, even in polls of older Americans, “there is little if any change from 2005″.

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