As I was waiting in the hospital surgical procedure area, I was approached by what I assumed to be a nurse who said she needed me for a moment. I went with her, and she explained that a witness was needed for the Advance Directive of a patient. She stated they were eager to get him into surgery, and they had paged the two chaplains, but they had not yet arrived. Wanting to be of assistance, I signed the form the nurse presented to me.

As I reflected on that experience later that day and the next morning, it dawned on me that I did not witness the patient signing the Advance Directive, and, as such, it was not a valid document. Hospital personnel are certainly trained in the appropriate protocol when it comes to Advance Directives, and definitely did not follow it in that instance. Subsequently, I reached out to the hospital to inform them of the situation, withdrew my name and signature as a witness or party to the Advance Directive of that individual, confirmed the document had been destroyed, and that they were reaching out to that individual to secure a new, legal document. It's disturbing to think shortcuts would be taken with such an important document.

My advice is for individuals to have Advance Directives prepared and executed now, while they are not under the stress or time constraints of a scheduled, or, even more importantly, emergency situation.

Appleton, WI