First responders given access to W.Va. end-of-life registry

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia Center for End-of-Life Care has given first responders in the state access to its online registry, allowing emergency services workers to see if patients have advance directives before they are admitted to a hospital.

The addition of emergency medical services provider to the system will ensure that patients' end-of-life wishes are respected, said Dr. Alvin Moss, director of the center and of the Center for Health Ethics and Law at West Virginia University.

"Now, when EMS is transporting medically unstable patients, they can log on to the registry and see if the patient has a medical order that would say, for example, that they don't want to be on a breathing machine or that they don't want to go to the intensive-care unit or that, if their heart stops, they don't want them to shock it," Moss told The Charleston Gazette-Mail ( "I like to view this registry, and the fact that EMS is now participating in it, as sort of closing the loop in our system, to ensure that patients' wishes will not only be known, but respected."

Advance directive allow people to list what medical decisions can be made on their behalf in the event that they aren't able to because of incapacitation or illness. They include living wills, do-not-resuscitate orders and medical power of attorney.

The West Virginia Offices of Emergency Medical Services hopes to have EMS units across the state trained to use the registry by the end of the month, Moss said.

More than 100 hospitals, hospices, doctor's offices and other health care providers across the state already have opted for access to the registry.

Moss said surveys show that three-quarters of West Virginians would prefer to die at home or in a hospice center than a hospital. But studies show that many doctors do not engage in end-of-life conversations with their patients.

Medicare announced in July that it plans to reimburse doctors for end-of-life conversations.

Moss said he believes the incentive will help. But he hopes physicians will take advantage of continuing education in how to conduct end-of-life conversations.

The center provides an annual day-long training session for physicians, nurses, chaplains and other interested community members.


Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail,

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