Major health care innovation for Nevadans launches

3/25/2008 - By: Jill Stockton

The Nevada Living Will Lockbox will be a free service providing electronic storage of living wills, other advance directives

The University’s Nevada Center for Ethics and Health Policy and the Nevada Secretary of State’s office are leading the charge and have launched the Nevada Living Will “electronic lockbox” Web site.

Secretary of State Ross Miller along with Assemblyman David Bobzien (D-Washoe, District 24) and a variety of healthcare professionals and University officials unveiled the lockbox this morning at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport.

The site is the state’s first online repository for advance directives, allowing health care professionals access to decisions about their patients’ end-of-life treatment options.

Advance directives, including living wills and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care papers, are legal documents for individuals to communicate appropriate end-of-life care ahead of time. Advance directives are used when individuals cannot communicate this information to their healthcare provider themselves.

“Typically, people think advanced directives are an issue for older people, but this is an issue that affects everyone,” said Sally Hardwick, the center’s interim director and a lecturer for the University’s School of Public Health. “When individuals have an advanced directive, it alleviates pressure on family members to make a decision and allows the individual’s wishes to be carried out by a physician.”

Only 22 percent of Nevadans have advanced directives for end-of-life care. Further complications arise about end-of-life treatment, according to a 2002 Nevada survey of emergency medical service responders and emergency physicians, because advance directives are rarely seen by emergency room personnel.

“As an emergency room doctor with an interest in bioethics, I have witnessed patients in the hospital who are very sick and then a sudden event occurs,” Reno physician Kevin Brown said. “Having access to advance directives at the hospital is a concrete way to grant the patient’s wishes.”

The Nevada Legislature passed the state law to create the Web site June 2, 2007.


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