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Advance Directives

Following guidelines set by federal regulations, we would like to inform you of your right to make personal health care decisions. This may include the right to accept or refuse medical/surgical treatment and the right to formulate Advance Directives. If you have already written an Advance Directives plan, please provide us with a copy to place in your medical chart.

What are advance directives? An advance directive is a legal document which allows a person to give instructions about future medical care should he or she be unable to participate in medical decisions due to serious illness or incapacity. The two most commonly known Advance Directives are Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare.

Living Will
The Living Will lets you discuss your wishes about medical care in the event that you develop a terminal condition or are permanently unconscious and can no longer make your own medical decisions. The Living Will becomes effective when your doctor and one other physician document in your medical record that you are in a terminal condition or permanently unconscious. It is a good idea to provide copies of you Living Will to the hospital, physician(s), family members, friends, clergy and store your own copy in a safe place where it can be easily found.

Durable Power of Attorney
Durable Power of Attorney is used to appoint someone to make decisions about your medical care, including decisions about life-sustaining treatment, if you no longer can speak for yourself. It goes into effect when your doctor determines that you are unable to communicate your healthcare decisions. This person is often called a Healthcare Proxy or Healthcare Agent.

Who should be my proxy?
Your proxy is the person you appoint to make decisions about your medical care if you become unable to make those decisions yourself. Your proxy can be a family member or a close friend whom you trust to make serious decisions. The person you name as your proxy should clearly understand your wishes and be willing to accept the responsibility of making medical decisions for you.

The person you appoint as your proxy cannot be any of the following individuals, unless he or she is a member of a religious community to which you both are bound by vows, or is related to you by blood, marriage or adoption:

  • your doctor or other treating healthcare provider, or
  • an employee of your treating healthcare provider, or
  • an employee of any hospital, psychiatric hospital or psychiatric treatment facility, hospice, nursing home or similar institution.

You can appoint a second person as your alternate proxy. The alternate will step in.

One of the strongest reasons for naming a proxy is to have someone who can respond as your medical situation changes and deal with situations you did not foresee.

Talk with your proxy about what you consider to be an acceptable “quality of life”.

How do I make my advance directive for healthcare legal?
The law requires that you have your Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare witnessed.
You can do this in either of two ways:
1. Have your signature witnessed by a notary public, OR
2. Sign your document in the presence of two witnesses, at least 18 years of age.
These witnesses cannot be the person you appointed as your healthcare proxy, entitled to any portion of your estate, directly financially responsible for your healthcare, or related to you by blood, marriage or adoption.

Clay County Medical Center offers additional information on Advance Directives through a short video, additional brochures, one-on-one counseling and speaking engagements to community organizations and groups. Your family attorney can be consulted for more complex forms.

Informed Consent
Upon admission to the hospital, you will be asked to sign an informed consent verifying that you understand and agree to a procedure and/or treatment that is planned for you.

The following are some questions you might ask your physician:

  • Why is this necessary?
  • Are there other reasonable alternatives?
  • What should I expect?
  • What are the risks involved?