Know Your Options
When a medical crisis occurs, patients may find themselves overwhelmed or physically unable to respond to what is happening. Sometimes family members are asked to make medical and treatment decisions for a loved one. Many people find peace of mind knowing that if they are faced with this situation, they have a plan in place to communicate their wishes or to understand the wishes of their loved one. Advance healthcare directives are legal documents that allow people to express their medical care decisions ahead of time, in case they become unable to communicate for themselves.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are Advance Healthcare Directives?
Advance healthcare directives are legal documents that outline an individual’s wishes regarding medical treatment should they be unable to communicate them themselves. There are two primary types of documents:
- A Healthcare Power of Attorney allows an individual to designate a healthcare agent who they want to speak for them regarding healthcare decisions when they are unable to do so themselves.
- A Living Will documents what lifesaving treatment or measures an individual would or would not like to be taken at the end of their life.
What are my rights? Who decides about my medical care or treatment?
If you are 18 or older and have the capacity to make and communicate healthcare decisions, you have the right to make decisions about your medical/mental health treatment. You should talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider about any treatment or procedure so you understand what will be done and why. You have the right to say yes or no to treatments recommended by your doctor or mental health provider. If you want to control decisions about your health/mental healthcare, even if you become unable to make or to express them yourself, you will need an “advance directive.”
Do I have to have an advance healthcare directive, and what happens if I don’t?
Making a living will, a healthcare power of attorney or an advance instruction for mental health treatment is your choice. If you become unable to make your own decisions, and you have no living will, advance instruction for mental health treatment, or a person named to make medical/mental health decisions for you (“healthcare agent”), your doctor or health/mental healthcare provider will consult with someone close to you about your care.
If you would like more information or assistance in initiating an advance directive, we can assist you. Please ask your nurse to contact a Case Manager for more information.
Where can I get help when I need to make difficult healthcare decisions?
If you find yourself having to make a difficult medical decision, you are not alone. Our Ethics Committee can talk through your options with you and help you reach a decision you are comfortable with. The Ethics Committee includes specially trained physicians, nurses, other healthcare professionals, clergy, community members and a medical ethicist. They are available to listen to your situation objectively and help you work through the decision-making process.
To get in touch with the Ethics Committee, please ask for a referral by speaking with your nurse.