Healthy Ending

Healthy Ending -- August 2001 Texas Medicine

Making Wishes Come True

Most of us don't like to think about dying. But chances are you will care for a seriously ill parent or spouse or friend sometime during your life, or you may be seriously ill or injured yourself. You should know what decisions you can make now that will affect your care later and what you should do to make sure your wishes are respected.

Advance Directives

Advance directives allow you to plan now for directing your medical care when you can no longer communicate your wishes. Three types of advance directives are discussed.

Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates

A Directive to Physicians -- sometimes referred to as a living will -- is a form that tells doctors, your family or friends, or someone authorized to make decisions for you whether to withhold or withdraw treatment if you become seriously ill with no hope of getting better. If you don't have this directive, doctors may use machines to keep you alive.

First, you must decide what treatment you will and will not accept. Second, discuss this with your family, clergy, and/or friends. Third, complete the form; don't wait until you're sick. (Anyone 18 years or older can complete a Directive to Physicians.)

A Directive to Physicians goes into effect only when you have a terminal or irreversible illness; it pertains to health care decisions, not to financial matters; and it can be changed at any time for any reason.

Medical Power of Attorney

A Medical Power of Attorney allows you to designate anyone you wish to make medical decisions for you if you become so ill that you cannot make decisions for yourself. The document is effective immediately after it is executed and delivered to the person you have chosen to act on your behalf. This person, called an "agent," may make health care decisions for you only if your attending physician certifies in writing that you are incompetent.

Like the Directive to Physicians, this document applies to health care decisions, not to financial matters, and can be changed at any time for any reason.

Out-of-Hospital Do-Not Resuscitate Order

This advance directive allows you to refuse specific lifesaving treatments outside the hospital. A doctor signs the order after you and he or she discuss your wishes.

The Out-of-Hospital Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Order tells doctors, nurses, paramedics, or anyone else offering medical care not to use CPR or any other technique to save your life if you stop breathing. You must carry your original form or a copy of it with you at all times, or wear an approved I.D. necklace or bracelet. If you do not have an Out-of-Hospital DNR Order, health care workers may have to do everything they can to revive you.

Where to Get the Forms

Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates

  • Texas Conference of Catholic Health Facilities Web site at chausa.org/STATES/4136_2.ASP . Or write TCCHF, 1625 Rutherford Lane, Austin, TX 78754, or call (512) 339-1157.
  • Your family physician or attorney

Medical Power of Attorney

  • Texas Conference of Catholic Health FacilitiesWeb site at chausa.org/STATES/4136_2.ASP . Or write TCCHF, 1625 Rutherford Lane, Austin, TX 78754, or call (512) 339-1157.
  • Your family physician or attorney

Out-of-Hospital DNR Order

  • Texas Department of Health Web site at www.tdh.state.tx.us/hcqs/ems/dnrhome.htm
  • Texas Conference of Catholic Health Facilities, 1625 Rutherford Lane, Austin, TX 78754; (512) 339-1157
  • Texas Medical Association, Attn: DNR form, 401 W. 15th St., Austin, TX 78701; or (512) 370-1306 for recorded information about prices of the DNR form, necklaces, or bracelets
  • Your family physician or attorney

Talk It Over

These documents are not enough to make sure that all the decisions about medical care at the end of your life will be made according to your written wishes. You should talk about what you want with your doctor and with your family and friends. Make sure they understand exactly what you want to happen.

Healthy Ending is a public service of TMA and Texas Medicine and is approved by the TMA Council on Public Health. The information and recommendations appearing here are appropriate in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For specific information concerning your personal medical condition, Texas Medicine and TMA strongly recommend that you consult your physician.

 


Comment on this (Must be logged in to comment)

Add Comment

Text Only 2000 character limit

Looking for more?