Your Right to Make Healthcare Decisions Under the Law
There may be times when you cannot make your wishes known to your doctor or other healthcare providers. If you were taken to a hospital in a coma, you would want the hospital’s medical staff to know what your specific wishes are about your medical care.
This page describes what the federal law has to say about your rights to inform your healthcare providers and significant others about the medical care and treatment you want if you are physically or mentally unable to make those decisions yourself.
Because this is an important matter, we urge you to talk to your spouse, family, close friends, personal advisor(s), your doctor and your attorney before deciding whether you want an advance directive.
What are advanced directives?
Advanced directives are documents that state your choices about medical treatment or name someone to make decisions about your medical treatment if you are unable to make these decisions or choices yourself. Through advanced directives, you can make legally valid decision about your future medical care.
Most states recognize three types of advanced directives:
- A living will
- An appointment of health care agency
- An oral directive
Do I have to have an advanced directive?
No. But if questions arise about medical treatment, advanced directives may help to clarify these important issues.
Will I receive medical care if I do not have an advanced directive?
Yes. There is a chance, however, that you will receive more treatment or procedures than you may want.
If you cannot speak for yourself and you do not have any advanced directives, your healthcare provider will look to the following people, in the order listed, for decisions about your care.
- Your guardian, if a court has appointed one.
- Your spouse.
- Your adult children.
- Your parents.
- Your adult brothers or sisters.
- A friend or any other relative who has maintained enough regular contact with you to be familiar with your activities, health, and personal beliefs.
To whom should I talk about advanced directives?
Before writing your instructions you should talk to those people closest to you. Discuss the instructions with your family, your doctor, and other appropriate people. These are the people who will be involved with your healthcare if you are unable to make your own decisions.
When do advanced directives go into effect?
Directives go into effect when you can no longer make your own healthcare decisions. As long as you are able to give ‘informed consent,’ your health care providers will rely on you and not on your advance directives.
What is informed consent?
Informed consent means that you are able to understand the nature and probable consequences of medical treatments and are able to make evaluations of the risks and possible benefits of those treatments as compared with alternatives.
How will my health care providers know I have an advanced directive?
Upon admission you will be asked if you have an advance directive. If you answer “yes,” you will be asked to present it to the center to become part of your medical record while you are a patient. It is your responsibility to communicate the fact that you have these documents to your physician and significant others.
Can I change my mind after I write an advanced directive?
Yes. You can cancel or change any advanced directive that you have written by destroying the original document. Tell anyone concerned that you have cancelled the advanced directive. To change your advanced directive write and date a new one. Give copies of your revised document to all the appropriate parties, including your doctor.
Do I need a lawyer to help me make an advanced directive?
There is no legal requirement to contact a lawyer, although a lawyer may be helpful to you. You may use this form to execute your advanced directives.
What if I have questions regarding completion of my advanced directive?
Call the Endoscopy Center at 240-313-9800 to get answers to any of your questions.