Advance Directive

Making Your Own Health Care Decisions

As a competent adult, you have the fundamental right, in collaboration with your health care providers, to control decisions about your own health care. You have the right to make voluntary, informed choices to accept or refuse any treatment, service or procedure used to diagnose, treat or care for your physical or mental condition, including life-sustaining treatment.

So long as you have the ability to understand the nature of your medical condition and the benefits, risks and burdens of the course of treatment and care recommended by your physician and its alternatives and are able to reach an informed decision, you have the right to make your own health care decision.

If you should lose these abilities and become incapable of making your own decision, meaning that you have lost decision-making capacity, then your health care providers will look to your prior written advance directive and /or to family members to make decisions on your behalf. A determination that you have lost decision-making capacity MUST be made by your attending physician and as necessary, one or more additional physicians who personally examine you. 

Planning Ahead: Advance Directive for Health Care

By writing an Advance Directive, you may exercise your right to plan ahead for, and control decisions about your health care in the event that you become unable to make your own decisions in the future. Your advance directive may be used to accept or to refuse any treatment, service or procedure used to diagnose, treat or care for your physical or mental condition, including life-sustaining treatment.

You may choose among three types of advance directives:

(1) By writing a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, you may designate another person, such as a family member or friend, to make decisions on your behalf.
(2) By writing a Living Will, you may state your directions and wishes for medical treatments you wish to accept or reject in certain circumstances.
(3) By writing a combined directive you may designate a health care representative to act on your behalf and provide him/her with a written statement of your treatment wishes.

Please remember that you are not required by law to have an advance directive. If you choose to complete an advance directive, you may wish to consult your attorney, although an attorney is not required.

You may choose to use one of the forms provided below, you may use a form obtained from another source, or you may write your own directive. It is not necessary to have an advance directive notarized.

Resources

Pennsylvania Catholic Conference Combined Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney
Living Wills and Powers of Attorney in Pennsylvania
Patient Self-Determination Act: Advance Directive 

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