For Immediate Release


Contact: Barbara Erb
U.S. Living Will Registry
Phone: (908) 654-1441/Fax: (908) 654-1919

U.S. Living Will Registry Helps Ensure Health care Choices Are Available When Needed

More Than Just Registry of Legal Documents, New Service Gives Peace Of Mind

Westfield, N.J., January, 2000 -- Americans now have the opportunity to register their advance directives (living wills and health care proxies), giving them the security of knowing that their health care choices will be available wherever and whenever they are needed thanks to the U.S. Living Will Registry of Westfield, New Jersey.

Free of charge, the Registry electronically stores advance directives (both living wills and health care proxies), and makes them available to hospitals across the country 24 hours a day through an advanced computer-facsimile system.

The United States Supreme Court and federal law guarantee the right of Americans to make choices regarding their health care in advance of a debilitating illness. While many Americans now have advance directives, they are often not available when they are needed.

Joseph T. Barmakian, MD, a board certified New Jersey Orthopedic Surgeon, founded the service to satisfy a growing need.

"Too many times," he said, "I've seen families forced to make difficult, heart-wrenching decisions about end of life care because the patient's living will was not available." Barmakian continued, "Questions such as whether a person should be placed on a ventilator or be fed intravenously and prolong their life or donate organs in the event of death can be very difficult and stressful decisions for family members to make. Having the living will available at such a time allows the patient to receive the kind of care they want while relieving their family of this burden."

When a person registers their advance directive with the U.S. Living Will Registry, the document is electronically stored in the computer along with the name and telephone number of a person to be contacted in an emergency. Any hospital can call the Registry 24 hours a day to obtain a faxed copy of the advance directive and emergency contact information. As only hospitals have access to the information, the patient's privacy and confidentiality are maintained.

For instance, when an unconscious person arrives at a hospital, it is often difficult for the hospital to know who to contact. The Registry can provide the hospital with the emergency contact information and the advance directive within seconds of the inquiry through its automated telephone-computer-facsimile system.

Even if a patient has an advance directive, it can be hard to locate in the midst of this type of family emergency. This is especially true when people are traveling.

"A coma or other illness which causes incapacitation is more than just a medical dilemma", he noted. "It's a family crisis that can turn into a legal and ethical quagmire--sometimes requiring lawyers and courts to sort out."

"The most important thing is to think about the kind of care you want, or don't want, and to discuss your wishes with loved ones," Barmakian added. "You should then write down your wishes in an advance directive and register it with the U.S. Living Will Registry so it's available when you need it, wherever you are."

He continued, "The Registry provides a sure way of avoiding such problems because, as a legal document, the advance directive allows the patient to describe the kinds of care they want or don't want, or, in the case of a health care proxy, to name someone who knows their feelings about end of life care to make the choices for them."

Barmakian also noted, "Often, people don't know where to keep their advance directives. It's inconvenient to carry it around with you. Putting it in a safe place often means it is not available when needed. With the Registry, you don't have to worry about where to keep the document."

The U.S. Living Will Registry was founded in 1996. It was then that Dr. Barmakian began to recognize the need for a nationwide registry service that not only recorded patients' advance directives, but also made it easier for hospitals and doctors to obtain the information. In the course of his practice, Dr. Barmakian has witnessed the ordeal of patients' families as they confront the painful, guilt-ridden decisions of life support, medical and surgical treatment, organ donation and other difficult choices.

"I have felt the frustration of doctors who didn't have access to a patient's wishes because no one could find their advance directive," Barmakian stated. "It was my belief that it was critical to establish a system which provides hospital personnel and patient's families with advance directives whenever and wherever they're needed."

Barmakian concluded, "I believe that the most important thing that the U.S. Living Will Registry provides is peace of mind."

For details concerning the U.S. Living Will Registry's services, please contact your local hospital, your lawyer or visit the U.S. Living Will Registry's web site: Or call toll-free 1-800-LIV-WILL.



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