Legal & Ethical Decisions
During your hospital stay, you may have to make decisions about your care. At Desert Regional Medical Center, we want to make sure you are well informed when those moments occur. The following provides information about legal tools like advance directives:
Many people find it hard to talk about serious illnesses or life-threatening emergencies. Yet it’s important to make sure your loved ones know what you wish to be done about your medical care before you are faced with a serious accident or illness. That’s where advance directives come in.
Advance directives provide you with the tools you need to help you tell others about your wishes regarding treatments such as resuscitation and life-support machines. These documents allow you to state what your preferences are for medical care and may be used to accept or refuse any procedure or treatment, including life-sustaining treatment.
You are not required to complete an advance directive. However, if you choose to complete one, the originals should be given to your healthcare agent. They should also be made part of your permanent medical record and copies filed with your physician. Also, copies should be provided to anyone that might accompany you to the hospital, including family members and close family friends. Lastly, please bring your advance directive to Desert Regional, so that it can be made part of your hospital record
You have the right to revoke your advance healthcare directive or replace it at any time.
Types of advance directives
A living will is a written, legal document that clearly states what types of medical treatments and life-sustaining measures you do and don’t want. These can include being placed on a ventilator (a machine that breathes for you), tube feeding, surgery, etc. You also may hear the living will called a healthcare declaration or healthcare directive.
Durable power of attorney for healthcare decisions, also called a medical power of attorney, is a legal document that designates someone to make medical decisions for you if you become unable to do so. The person you designate is your healthcare agent or proxy. This document applies only to medical decisions and does not grant this person the rights to make financial transactions for you.
Making medical decisions
You may want to talk with your doctor and your family about your medical wishes. You should consider your personal values, including the importance of independence and self-sufficiency. Your religious views also may help you make these decisions. You also should consider whether your prognosis (likelihood of recovery) would make a difference in whether you would want to receive that type of treatment. Treatments to consider include:
Resuscitation. This is used to restart your heart if it should stop beating. You can decide if and when you would want to be resuscitated by cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or by a device that uses an electric shock to start the heart. Some people with a terminal illness decide that they do not want any resuscitation.
Mechanical ventilation. If you can’t breathe on your own, a machine can be used to breathe for you. You should consider if, when and for how long you would want to be on a ventilator.
Nutritional and hydration assistance. This is used to give your body nutrients and fluids either intravenously or by using a tube into the stomach. You should consider if, when and for how long you would want to be fed like this.
Hemodialysis. If your kidneys stop working, a dialysis machine can be used to remove waste from the blood and manage your fluid levels. In some cases, dialysis may be temporary but it can be permanent.
Treatments for end-of-life stage. If you have a terminal illness such as cancer, you should decide whether you want treatments such as antibiotics, pain medication and ventilation. Would you want to receive only comfort or palliative care if you were terminally ill? If the treatment would delay your death, would you still want to receive it?
Organ donation. Donating organs including kidneys, lungs, heart, skin and corneas can help others. If you would like to be an organ donor, you should talk with your family and your doctor about what organs you want to donate.
Choosing a healthcare agent
You should carefully consider whom you would designate as your healthcare agent. This person doesn’t have to be a member of your family. You should feel comfortable with the person you choose and be able to discuss end-of-life decisions with him or her. Once you’ve made the decision, you should talk with that person to make sure he or she is willing to act as your agent for healthcare decisions. Once he or she agrees, you also should let your family and physician know who has been selected. Some people also choose an alternate in case the first person can’t be reached in an emergency.