Sandra Daniels knows better than anyone accidents can happen out of nowhere.
The 77-year-old Glendale resident was in the bathroom of her home last month when she slipped and fell, fracturing three ribs in the process. As a patient at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, she learned the value of having an advanced medical directive to outline her wishes, in the event she’s not able to make decisions for herself.
“It’s important because when you can’t make decisions, who’s going to talk for you?” she said. “You need that.”
On Tuesday, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., members of the public can learn more about their options, when clinical bioethicist Dr. Wendy Kohlhase leads a discussion on advanced medical directives at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital. Participants with a valid ID can complete their own form and have it notarized at the event.
Kohlhase consults for several area hospitals, which call on her to weigh in on ethics issues and help inform life and death decisions about patient care. She often gets cases where an individual has no advanced directive.
“The family has no idea of what their loved one’s wishes are,” she said. “They’re stuck with this horrific burden of having to decide for them.”
Advanced medical directives let people make decisions about treatments, procedures and organ donations and appoint someone as an agent to carry out those wishes if a patient is unable to. A physician can also be selected to have primary responsibility for one’s healthcare.
Despite their efficacy, only about a third of Americans have legal documents outlining their wishes. Kohlhase encourages people to have conversations with friends and loved ones now and put plans into writing.
“It’s a gift to your loved ones, and it’s a gift to you because you know your wishes are really going to be honored,” she said.
Now almost fully recovered from her injuries, Daniels says she’s glad she finally took care of business by completing an advanced directive that will make her wishes known should any medical misfortune visit her again.
“It’s a relief that it’s done,” she said. “Everything is taken care of, and I don’t have to worry about anything.”
Daniels advises anyone who doesn’t already have an advanced medical directive to get one.
“Do it as soon as possible,” she suggested. “You don’t know if you’re going to be injured in some way or in a car accident — you never know what’s going to happen, so you have to be prepared.”