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Aurora Adopts Simple Advance Directive that Covers Medical, Personal, Emotional and Spiritual Needs

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Kickoff event April 16 to include former legal counsel
to Mother Teresa

Milwaukee, Wis. -- Jim Towey, the former legal counsel to Mother Teresa, will speak at an event April 16, from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m., kicking off Aurora Health Care's adoption of the Five WishesTM document as its advance directive of choice.

Towey will discuss how his experiences working with Mother Teresa inspired him to carry on her legacy of dignity at the end of life by founding Aging with Dignity and Five Wishes.

Aurora is the first health care system in the state to offer all patients over age 18 this easy to understand, preplanned health care document, which speaks for a person when he or she is unable to do so. The document recently was accepted by the State of Wisconsin and is used in 39 other states.

Five Wishes is unique because it is written in simple, everyday language. It encourages patients to discuss with family members and physicians their wishes, ranging from medical interventions to whether they want music or prayer at the time of their passing.

The document not only lists but also explains terms such as "life support treatment" and allows patients to handwrite any limits they want on such interventions because of personal or religious beliefs. One wish details things patients want their loved ones to know about them, allowing them to retain or cross off statements such as "I wish for my family and friends to know that I do not fear death itself. I think it is not the end, but a new beginning for me."

The document is diverse and culturally sensitive and available in 23 languages and Braille.

"Five Wishes is changing the way America talks about and plans for care at the end of life, " said Marsha Vollbrecht, director of Senior Services for Aurora. "Patients can read the document, understand it thoroughly and complete it independently."

The kickoff event will be held at the Italian Community Center, 631 E. Chicago St. In addition to Towey, Paul Malley, the current president of Aging with Dignity and board chair Guy Smith will be part of a panel discussion. Also on the panel are Stephanie Sue Stein, director of the Milwaukee County Department on Aging, and Sean Dilweg, Wisconsin's commissioner of insurance.

About Jim Towey: An attorney, he founded Aging with Dignity in 1996 after his experiences at Mother Teresa's homes for the dying inspired him to promote better care for people at the end of life. Towey was legal counsel to Mother Teresa for 12 years, and he lived for one year as a full-time volunteer in her home for people with AIDS in Washington, D.C. Before meeting her, Towey worked in Washington as legislative director and legal counsel for Sen. Mark O. Hatfield of Oregon, and later directed Florida's Social Services Agency. After founding Aging with Dignity and leading the organization for six years, Towey was appointed by President George W. Bush in February 2002 as deputy assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (OFBCI). He was named assistant to the president in January 2005. In April 2006, Towey left to become president of St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa.

About Paul Malley: He is president of Aging with Dignity, a national non-profit organization based in Tallahassee, Fla. Malley and Aging with Dignity have been featured in national media including CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, the NBC Today Show, Good Morning America, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Newsweek, Time and Consumer Reports.

Aurora Health Care is a not-for-profit health care provider and a national leader in efforts to improve the quality of health care.

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Contact: Linda Steiner

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