Putting it in Writing
In the event you are unable to speak for yourself, an Advance Directive communicates how medical care choices should be made and who should make them.
Because of illness or injury people are sometimes unable to talk to a doctor and decide about treatment for themselves. You may wish to plan in advance to make sure that your wishes about treatment will be followed should you become unable to decide for yourself. In New York State, appointing someone you can trust to decide about treatment if you become unable to decide for yourself is the best way to protect your treatment wishes and concerns.
You have the right to appoint someone to decide for you by filling out a form called a Health Care Proxy. A copy of the form and information about the Health Care Proxy is available in downloadable format or from your health care provider. If you have no one you can appoint or don’t want to appoint someone, you can also give specific instructions about treatment in advance. Those instructions can be written and are often referred to as a Living Will.
CVPH has adopted an Advanced Directives policy to ensure that medical treatment decisions correspond with the wishes of our patients and comply with current ethical and clinical guidelines and applicable state and federal laws. Upon your admission to CVPH, you were asked if you had a completed Advanced Directive. If your answer was yes, a copy of your Advanced Directive is placed in your Medical Record. Ask your nurse if you currently don’t have an Advanced Directive in place but would like to complete one.
You may revoke your Advanced Directive at any time by indicating your new wishes to your physician, showing an intention to revoke it to any health care professional or by creating a new directive.
Advance Directives can limit life-prolonging medical treatment when there is little or no chance of recovery. Medical treatment at the end of life usually falls into three main categories - life supporting, life sustaining and life enhancing. Life support uses CPR and machines to keep your heart and lungs going when they can no longer work on their own. Life sustaining care involves treatment or machines to prolong your life when your condition cannot be reversed or cured. Life enhancing care keeps you comfortable until your death occurs naturally. There are no measures done artificially to prolong your life.
Do I need legal assistance to appoint a health care agent?
No. Attorneys need not be involved. All you need to do is complete a health care proxy form as directed and sign it along with two other witnesses. The witnesses must be over the age of 18.
Who can be my health care agent?
Anyone at least 18 years of age can be a health care agent. He or she needs to be someone you trust and they should be familiar with
your moral and religious beliefs. The most important thing is that you talk with your health care agent about your health care wishes, and make sure you give your agent a copy of the proxy form.
What decisions can my health care agent make?
Unless you limit your health care agent’s authority, your agent will be able to make any treatment decision that you could have made if
you were able to decide for yourself. Your agent can agree that you should receive treatment, choose among different treatments, and
decide that treatments should not be provided, in accord with your wishes and interests. If your health care agent is not aware of your
wishes about artificial nutrition and hydration (nourishment and water provided by feeding tubes), he or she will not be able to make
decisions about these measures. Artificial nutrition and hydration are used in many circumstances, and are often used to continue the life of patients who are in a permanent coma.
May I use the health care proxy form to express my wishes about organ and/or tissue donation?
Yes. Use the optional organ and/or tissue donation section on the Health Care Proxy form. You may specify that your organs and/
or tissues be used for transplantation, research, or educational purposes. Any limitation(s) associated with your wishes should be noted in this section of the proxy.
Can my health care agent make decisions for me about organ and/or tissue donation?
No. The power of a health care agent to make health care decisions on your behalf ends upon your death. Noting your wishes on your Health Care Proxy form allows you to clearly state your wishes about organ and tissue donation.
Can I have more than one health care agent?
You can have one agent and an alternate agent. Your alternate agent will represent you if your agent is not available.
Can I change my health care agent?
Yes, you can change your health care agent if you wish. If you make this change, you’ll need to fill out a new Health Care Proxy identifying your new agent. It will be important you send a copy of this new form to your primary care physician along with any facility that would have your Health Care Proxy on file.