Advance Directives

The Patient Self-Determination Act of 1990 requires that all Medicare and Medi-Cal providers inform patients about their right to make decisions about their own health care. This includes their right to accept or refuse medical treatment and their right to prepare Advance Health Care Directives.

What Are Your Advance Directives?
You have the right to make decisions about your own medical treatment. These decisions become more difficult if, due to illness or a change in mental condition, you are unable to tell your doctor and loved ones what kind of healthcare treatments you want. That is why it is important for you to make your wishes known in advance.
Here is a brief description of each kind of Directive:

Living Will
A set of instructions documenting your wishes about life-sustaining medical care. It is used if you become terminally ill, incapacitated, or unable to communicate or make decisions. A living will protects your rights to accept or refuse medical care and removes the burden for making decisions from your family, friends and medical professionals.

Healthcare Proxy
A person (agent) you appoint to make your medical decisions if you are unable to do so. Choose someone you know well and trust to represent your preferences. Be sure to discuss this with the person before naming them as your agent. Remember that an agent may have to use their judgment in the event of a medical decision for which your wishes aren't known.

Durable Power of Attorney
For health care: A legal document that names your healthcare proxy. Once written, it should be signed, dated, witnessed or notarized. You are to keep the original and make copies for your designated healthcare agents (i.e., primary care physician, hospital of choice) for inclusion in your medical record.
For finances: You may also want to appoint someone to manage your financial affairs when you cannot. A durable power of attorney for finances is a separate legal document from the durable power of attorney for health care. You may choose the same person for both, or choose different people to represent you. Your durable power of attorney for finances must be notarized.

What are Advance Directives?
A living will, a healthcare proxy, or a durable power of attorney are the legal documents that allow you to give direction to medical personnel, family and friends concerning your future care when you cannot speak for yourself. You do not need a lawyer in order to complete Advance Directives.

Does the hospital keep my Advance Directive on file?
When you provide a copy of your written Advance Directive, it is placed in your permanent medical record. Each time you are readmitted, however, you will be asked to verify and/or update your information. This ensures that the hospital has your most current information.

For more information about Advance Directives or to obtain the forms, please talk to your nurse or call our Social Services Department, (559) 450-3158, or our Center for Spiritual Care, (559) 450-3227.