Sharing Your Wishes and Making Health Care Decisions

Do you know what health care treatments you would and would not want if you could not speak for yourself? Do your family and loved ones know what your wishes are? Do you have an advance directive?

Advance directives are legal documents that provide direction and instruction for your future health care in the event you are unable to make decisions for yourself. There are two types of advance directives, commonly referred to as a “living will” and a “durable power of attorney for health care.”

  • A living will is a written statement that makes clear the end-of-life treatments you wish. The purpose of a living will is to guide family members and physicians in deciding the use and continuation or withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment.
  • A durable power of attorney for health care is a written document that appoints and designates an individual to make health care decisions on your behalf while you are living when you are unable to do so for yourself. A durable power of attorney for health care is not limited to end-of-life decisions. (A durable power of attorney for health care is not the same as a durable power of attorney, which appoints and designates an individual to make financial decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so for yourself.)

University Hospitals honors treatment decisions outlined in valid advance directives and recognizes the rights of patients to choose and refuse treatment. We strongly encourage all patients to prepare advance directive documents by taking the following steps:

  • Choose a family member or friend to be your health care decision maker. Explain to them what your wishes would be in the event you experience a serious illness that leaves you unable to communicate.
  • Document your wishes on official Advance Directive and/or Living Will forms. For more information or to request copies of these documents, contact us at Care Coordination. If you need assistance in making difficult decisions, our ethics consultation service can help. You can revoke or make changes to these documents at any time.
  • Give copies of the completed form(s) to your health care decision maker and health care team.
  • Talk to your loved ones about the choices you have made so they understand and will support your wishes if and when you become seriously ill. There are online resources to help you have these conversations, including www.prepareforyourcare.org or www.theconversationproject.org.

Health Care Decision Making During COVID-19

During the current COVID-19 outbreak, it is more important than ever to make your wishes know. However, with physical distancing in place, you may have to adjust the steps listed above somewhat. Visit our Being Prepared during COVID-19 page for more details.

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