By Jillian Washington, Marketing & Communications Coordinator
April 16, 2016 marks the ninth annual observance of National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD). Since 2008, NHDD has provided a platform to educate Americans about the importance of advance care planning and documenting their health care wishes in writing.
Discussing end-of-life treatment preferences with loved ones can be a difficult conversation to have; NHDD seeks to address this challenge by dedicating a specific day each year for patients to openly discuss their wishes without judgment.
In honor of National Healthcare Decisions Day, I reached out to NHDD Founder and Chair Nathan Kottkamp, who reflected on the progress of the advance care planning movement and explained why the topic does not belong exclusively to the elderly.
Q: How has the advance care planning landscape changed since the founding of NHDD in 2008?
A: “It has gained more acceptance, among other things. There seems to be greater willingness by the media to write articles about advance care planning. Furthermore, there has been an explosion in the number of websites and apps dedicated to advance care planning.”
Q: What do you feel is the greatest challenge to promoting advance care planning to health care consumers?
A: “It is a topic that most of us would rather ignore. We often assume that there will be time later to address the issues, but often people fail to do anything and tragedy strikes. This is one of the reasons that NHDD is so important, it creates a catalyst for people to mark their calendars, stop making excuses and just have the talk with their loved ones. The other challenge is knowing where to go for resources since there are so many options out there. At, we have assembled a collection of great, free resources.”
Q: Should young adults consider having an advance care plan? If so, why?
A: “Absolutely! Indeed, the three cases that made the law and the news with respect to advance care planning involved women in their 20s: Terri Schiavo, Karen Ann Quinlan and Nancy Cruzan. Advance directives are not just for end-of-life issues—they’re for any time a person cannot speak for himself or herself. This can be because of a car accident, a sports injury or some other random event.”
Q: How has NHDD impacted the advance care planning movement?
A: “NHDD has created a rallying point for the many organizations and individuals that work to support advance care planning year-round. It helps to have a day on which organizations of various sorts can create a massive initiative to support advance care planning.”
Q: Do you have a personal story about advance care planning?
A: “I created National Healthcare Decisions Day because of my work on several ethics committees where the case consults routinely resulted from a lack of having an advance care plan of any sort. When people have advance directives, the cases are easy.”
For more information about National Healthcare Decisions Day, visit To learn more about the advance care planning documents available in Louisiana, visit