The Grateful Patients, Families and Friends program recently contributed $10,000 to ensure the West Virginia Center for End-of-Life Care can continue to provide free information, education and resources to help West Virginians document their wishes for medical care.
Established in collaboration with the West Virginia University Foundation, the Grateful Patients, Families and Friends program provides opportunities for individuals, family members and friends to recognize the exceptional care provided by WVU Medicine physicians, nurses and other health care professionals.
As the COVID-19 pandemic sparked greater interest in advance planning, the West Virginia Center for End-of-Life Care – a nonprofit state entity based at the WVU Health Sciences Center – faced critical financial challenges due to increased demand for its services. The Center distributed a record 94,235 free forms in 2020.
Since the Center provides services that overwhelmingly benefit WVU Medicine patients and health care providers, leadership at the Foundation’s Health Sciences Office of Philanthropy offered to provide assistance via the Grateful Patients, Families and Friends program.
“When our team learned of the valuable resources provided by the West Virginia Center for End-of-Life Care and its urgent need for funding, we were eager to help,” Jeffrey Schoenherr, WVU Foundation associate vice president for medical and health sciences development, said. “I’m glad we could provide support to help empower West Virginians to make their own health care decisions. I hope everyone takes advantage of the Center’s free services to document their end-of-life wishes.”
The Center enters advance care planning forms – such as living wills, medical powers of attorney, and medical orders – into the WV e-Directive Registry, which is accessible to health care providers throughout the state. The Center is the only distributor of medical orders in West Virginia and the main distributor of advance directives. Since its establishment in 2002, the Center has provided more than 1.2 million free forms and resources to patients, health care providers and more.
“The Center is valuable to WVU Medicine patients because when patients want to document their wishes, the Center provides the free resources for them to do so,” Danielle Funk, program manager for the West Virginia Center for End-of-Life Care, said. “Additionally, the Registry is the nation’s most comprehensive database of its kind – meaning it accepts any form patients want to submit, so their health care providers can access their wishes 24/7 for treatment.”
All WVU Medicine health care providers are authorized to access patient forms on the Registry. WVU Medicine treats patients throughout the state of West Virginia, and its providers are consistently looking for forms for their patients. Funk said WVU Medicine’s J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital accessed the Registry more than any other health care facility in 2020. WVU Medicine providers also frequently submit forms to the Registry on their patients’ behalf.
Dr. Clay Marsh, WVU’s vice president and executive dean for health sciences, highlighted the importance of Center’s work in conjunction with National Health Care Decisions Day, observed April 16.
“One of the critical rules of medical ethics is that of autonomy – you get to make the decisions for yourself – and you want to make sure that if, for whatever reason, you’re not in the mental capacity or in the setting that you can make your own decisions, then having a written set of instructions that are certified in a living will or allocating somebody else with durable power of attorney for health care are both really important safeguards to make sure that you will get exactly the medical treatment you desire if you come to an end-of-life decision requirement,” Marsh said.
The West Virginia Center for End-of-Life Care remains in need of financial support. Gifts can be securely online at give.wvu.edu/wvendoflife. To learn more about the Center’s services, visit wvendoflife.org.
Gifts can also be made to honor a WVU Medicine caregiver at give.wvu.edu/grateful-patients-and-families. All contributions to the Grateful Patients, Families and Friends program support WVU Medicine patient services, equipment and treatment programs.
All gifts are made through the Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.