Advance Directive Info
Your Right To Make Decisions About Medical Treatment
This information explains your rights to make health care decisions and
how you can plan what should be done when you can not speak for yourself.
Federal law requires us to give you this information. We hope this information
will help increase your control over your medical treatment.
The California Consortium on Patient Self-Determination prepared the proceeding
text, which has been adopted by the California Department of Health Services
to implement Public Law 101-508.
Who decides about my treatment?
Your doctors will give you information and advice about treatment. You
have the right to choose. You can say "Yes" to treatments you want. You
can say "No" to any treatment you don’t want - even if the treatment
might keep you alive longer.
How do I know what I want?
Your doctor must tell you about your medical condition and about what different
treatments can do for you. Many treatments have side effects. Your doctor
must offer you information about serious problems that medical treatment
is likely to cause you. Often, more than one treatment might help you
- and people have different ideas about which is best. Your doctor can
tell you which treatments are available to you, but your doctor can not
choose for you. That choice depends on what is important to you.
What if I am too sick to decide?
If you can not make treatment decisions, your doctor will ask your closest
available relative or friend to help decide what is best for you. Most
of the time, that works. But sometimes not everyone agrees about what
to do. That is why it is helpful if you say in advance what you want to
happen if you can not speak for yourself. There are several kinds of advance
directives that you can use to say what you want and who you want to speak
for you. One kind of advance directive under California law lets you name
someone to make health care decisions when you can not. This form is called
a Durable Power Of Attorney For Health Care.
Who can fill out this form?
You can if you are 18 years or older and of sound mind. You do not need
a lawyer to fill it out.
Who can I name to make medical treatment decisions when I'm unable to do so?
You can choose an adult relative or friend you trust as your agent to speak
for you when you are too sick to make your own decisions.
How does this person know what I would want?
After you choose someone, talk to that person about what you want. You
can also write down in the Durable Power Of Attorney For Health Care when
you would or would not want medical treatment. Talk to your doctor about
what you want and give your doctor a copy of the form. Give another copy
to the person named as your agent. And take a copy with you when you go
into a hospital or other treatment facility. Sometimes treatment decisions
are hard to make and it truly helps your family and your doctors if they
know what you want. The Durable Power Of Attorney For Health Care also
gives them legal protection when they follow your wishes.
What if I don’t have anybody to make decisions for me?
You can use another kind of advance directive to write down your wishes
about treatment. This is often called a Living Will because it takes effect
while you are still alive but have become unable to speak for yourself.
The California Natural Death Act lets you sign a living will called a
Declaration. Anyone 18 years or older and of sound mind can sign one.
When you sign a Declaration it tells your doctors that you do not want
any treatment that would only prolong your dying. All life-sustaining
treatment would be stopped if you were terminally ill and your death was
expected soon, or if you were permanently unconscious. However, you would
still receive treatment to keep you comfortable.
The doctors must follow your wishes about limiting treatment or turn your
care over to another doctor who will. Your doctors are also legally protected
when they follow your wishes.
Are there other living wills I can use?
Instead of using the Declaration in the Natural Death Act, you can use
any of the available living will forms. You can use a Durable Power Of
Attorney For Health Care form without naming an agent. Or you can just
write down your wishes on a piece of paper. Your doctors and family can
use what you write in deciding about your treatment. But living wills
that do not meet the requirements of the Natural Death Act do not give
as much legal protection for your doctors if a disagreement arises about
following your wishes.
What if I change my mind?
You can change or revoke any of these documents at any time as long as
you can communicate your wishes.
Do I have to fill out one of these forms?
No, you do not have to fill out any of these forms if you do not want to.
You can just talk with your doctors and ask them to write down what you
have said in your medical chart. And you can talk with your family. But
people will be more clear about your treatment wishes if you write them
down. And your wishes are more likely to be followed if you write them down.
Will I still be treated if I don’t fill out these forms?
Absolutely. You will still get medical treatment. We just want you to know
that, if you become too sick to make decisions, someone else will have
to make them for you. Remember that: a Durable Power Of Attorney For Health
Care lets you name someone to make treatment decisions for you. That person
can make most medical decisions - not just those about life-sustaining
treatment - when you can not speak for yourself. Besides naming an agent,
you can also use the form to say when you would and would not want particular
kinds of treatment. If you do not have someone you want to name to make
decisions when you can not, you can sign a Natural Death Act Declaration.
This Declaration says that you do not want life prolonging treatment if
you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious.
How can I get more information about advance directives?
Ask your doctor, nurse, or social worker to get more information for you.
Foregoing Life Sustaining Treatment (Advance Directive)
Oral or written instruction made in advance and relating to the provision
of health care when an individual is incapacitated.
The hospital and the medical staff support your right to actively participate
in decisions regarding your health care program, including decisions regarding
the right to refuse life-sustaining treatment. In compliance with federal
law, you will be given information regarding these rights upon your admission
to the hospital.
If you wish to document your health care preferences or appoint another
person to make health care decisions on your behalf, contact the Admitting
Department at extension 5521 for a Durable Power of Attorney for Health
Care form. Should you need assistance in completing an Advance Directive,
contact the Social Service Department at extension 5645.
Any complaints you may have concerning Advance Directive requirements may
be made to the Department of Health Services.