Fellow for Life Nathan Kottkamp is an attorney who specializes in healthcare law, and the founder and chair of National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), held every April 16 to “inspire, educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning.” We’re excited for him to join us at the SPARK! Leadership Conference in Boston Nov. 5, where he will co-lead the session “Making Health Care Decisions: The Conversation” with Dr. Lachlan Forrow. This is a unique opportunity to engage with two leaders who are greatly influencing the public discussion about end-of-life care.
To be sure, such discussions don’t come easy to the average person―including health care providers. Recent research shows that doctors are unsure about how to broach advance care planning and end-of-life conversations with their patients, despite their realization that initiating such talks are their responsibility.
Kottkamp noticed this trend while serving on several hospital ethics committees. “Time and time again,” he has written, “families, providers, and hospital administrators struggle to interpret the wishes of patients who never made their healthcare wishes known (or failed to complete an advance directive to record their stated wishes). These families and professionals do their best to advocate for what they believe their loved ones or the patient would want or is in their best interests, but they are inherently doing so without any guidance, and it is agonizing.” Kottkamp completed his own advance directive when he was just 20 and has said it was empowering to make his wishes clear for his loved ones.
NHDD grew out of Virginia Advance Directives Day, an awareness day Kottkamp founded in his home state in 2006. In 2008, he took his effort national. (Fun fact: Kottkamp cleverly chose April 16―the day after Tax Day―for NHDD in homage to Ben Franklin’s adage, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”)
As NHDD has grown, Kottkamp recently turned over his administrative duties for his labor of love to The Conversation Project, a like-minded organization dedicated to helping people discuss their end-of-life care wishes. (Dr. Forrow is a member of the organization’s advisory board). Kottkamp will remain as chair of NHDD, but the change will allow him to focus his efforts more on advancing the national discussion on this important issue rather than on operations-oriented tasks.
We are very much looking forward to taking part in that discussion at this year’s SPARK! Leadership Conference. Please register today so you can join us. See you on Nov. 5!