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Living Will

A Living Will, also called an advance directive, is a legal document that allows you to state your choices for medical treatment before you actually need such care. It may also name a person to make treatment choices for you. A signed advance directive will only be followed in the event that you become mentally or physically unable to convey your wishes regarding medical care decisions.

Communicating Your Choices

Advance Directives

Medical Power of Attorney  Download

Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates (Living Will)  Download

Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Order

Declaration for Mental Health Treatment

Frequently Asked Questions

Information about Organ Donation

Communicating Your Medical Care Choices
When you need medical care, certain decisions need to be made involving the kind of care to be given. These decisions may become harder if you become unable to tell your doctor and loved ones what kind of medical care you want. The law requires that patients be given enough information to make an informed choice regarding whether to consent (give permission) to medical care and treatment.

By law, an adult has the right to be informed of the possible medical outcomes of such refusal. Consent is not required to provide emergency care to an adult who is unconscious or unable to communicate and is suffering from an injury or illness that could result in immediate death. Problems sometimes arise when an adult patient needs medical treatment in a nonemergency situation but is unable to give informed consent or tell the doctor his or her desire for medical care.

Every adult of sound mind has the right to decide what may be done to his or her body. As a patient, you have the right to be told about your condition, the proposed treatment, the risks of not having the treatment and treatments available. This information helps you make an informed decision about accepting or choosing not to have the treatment your doctor has discussed with you.

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Advance Directives Recognized in Texas
The four types of advance directives recognized in Texas are:

You are not required to complete these documents should you choose not to do so. They are not required for buying health insurance or receiving medical care at a hospital, nursing home or home health care agency.  Please consult your legal professional or health care provider if you have additional questions about any of the information provided.

This information is provided to comply with the State Advance Directives Act and the federal Patient Self-Determination Act. Complaints concerning failure by a hospital, nursing home or home health agency to follow federal and state advance directive requirements may be filed with the Texas Department of Health, Health Facility Compliance Division, 1100 West 49th Street, Austin, Texas 78756 (1-800-228-1570). You are not required to complete these forms as part of patient registration in a hospital, nursing home or home health care agency, or at any time in the future should you choose not to do so.

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Medical Power of Attorney (formerly known as Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care)
A Medical Power of Attorney is a form that allows you to appoint someone (your "agent") to make health care decisions for you if you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself. These decisions can include (1) agreeing to or refusing medical treatment; (2) deciding not to continue medical treatment; or (3) making decisions to stop or not start life-sustaining treatment.

Points to Remember
The person you choose as your agent makes decision for you only if you cannot make decisions for yourself. Your agent may NOT make decisions regarding:

  1. Voluntary inpatient mental health services
  2. Convulsive treatment
  3. Psychosurgery
  4. Abortion
  5. Withholding treatment intended for comfort.

Discuss this advance directive with the person you have chosen as your agent, your physician and/or attorney before you sign it. Also, give these individuals copies of your signed Medical Power of Attorney form. You can change or cancel your Medical Power of Attorney at any time for any reason. The Medical Power of Attorney applies only to health care decisions. It does not apply to financial matters.

 Download a
 Medical Power of Attorney 

 

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Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates (Commonly referred to as a Living Will)
A Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates is a form that allows you to instruct physicians to administer, withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment when it has been determined by your physician that you have an irreversible or terminal condition and you are not able to communicate. Life-sustaining treatment is a treatment or procedure that includes life-sustaining medications and artificial life supports, such as mechanical breathing machines, kidney dialysis and artificial nutrition and hydration, that is not expected to cure your condition or make you better, and is only prolonging the moment of death.

Points to Remember
This advance directive allows you to tell doctors and those close to you what you wish to be done or not done should you need life-sustaining treatment.

  • Discuss this document with your physician, family, clergy, friends or your attorney before you sign it.
  • You can change or cancel your Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates at any time for any reason.
  • This advance directive goes into effect only when you have a terminal or irreversible condition and are unable to make your own health care decisions.
  • This advance directive applies only to health care decisions. It does not apply to financial matters.
  • A copy of this signed advance directive should be provided to your physician, family members or significant others, the person chosen as your agent to make health care decisions and/or your attorney.

Download a 
Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates  

 

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Out-of-Hospital Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Order
An Out-of-Hospital DNR Order is a form completed by an individual person and his or her physician that allows the patient to refuse specific life-sustaining treatments outside of a hospital inpatient setting. An Out-of-Hospital DNR Order form or ID necklace or bracelet will tell health care providers, including emergency medical service personnel, not to use cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and other life-sustaining treatments.

Points to Remember
Any adult person who is capable of making and communicating informed health care decisions can obtain and complete an Out-of-Hospital DNR Order.

  • To show that you have an Out-of-Hospital DNR Order, you must have the original or a copy of your form with you or wear an approved ID necklace or bracelet.
  • The Out-of-Hospital DNR Order form and bracelet must be obtained through a physician.
  • You may cancel the Out-of-Hospital DNR Order at any time.
  • Discuss the document with your physician, family, clergy, and/or friends before you sign it.

Consult your family physician or legal professional for more information about obtaining or completing an "Out-of-Hospital Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Order."

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Declaration for Mental Health Treatment
The Declaration for Mental Health Treatment is a document that allows you to tell a hospital providing mental health services what kinds of mental health treatment you want, in the event you become mentally incapacitated. A Declaration for Mental Health Treatment form indicates the kinds of mental health services you do or do not agree to (including such options as psychoactive medications, convulsive treatment and preferences for emergency treatment such as restraint, seclusion, or medication).

Points to Remember
You should consult a lawyer if you have questions about how the Declaration for Mental Health Treatment works and under what circumstances your decisions can be overridden.

  • For the Declaration for Mental Health Treatment to become effective, a judge must find that you are incapacitated because you lack:
    • (1) the ability to understand the nature and consequences of a proposed treatment, including the benefits, risks and alternatives to the proposed treatment, and;
    • (2) the ability to make health care treatment decisions because of impairment.
  • The law defines "incapacitated," and the court determines "incapacitation" in one of only two ways:
    • (1) in a guardianship proceeding, or
    • (2) in a hearing to consider the forced administration of psychoactive medication.
  • The Declaration for Mental Health Treatment is generally valid for only three years from the date it is signed.
  • You may change or cancel your Declaration for Mental Health Treatment at any time as long as you are mentally competent.
  • You may obtain forms for the Declaration for Mental Health Treatment from a psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed social worker, other mental health provider or an attorney.
  • A copy of the signed document should be provided to your physician, family members or significant others, the person chosen as your agent to make health care decisions and/or your attorney.

Note: Most Texas Health Resources hospitals do not routinely provide mental health services. However, in accordance with federal law, it is the policy of Texas Health Resources facilities to provide written information to all adult inpatients on admission regarding their right to a declaration for mental health treatment, and the written policies and procedures of this facility about such rights. People who need inpatient mental health services and present to a facility that does not provide mental health services will be examined to determine whether an emergency medical condition exists. If an emergency medical condition exists, appropriate stabilizing treatment will be provided and then the patient will be transferred to a facility that provides inpatient mental health services.

Consult your family physician or legal professional for more information about obtaining or completing a "Declaration for Mental Health Treatment."

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Frequently Asked Questions

Where should I keep my advance directives?
You should keep the advance directive forms that you sign and give a copy to your regular doctor and others who are likely to be with you if you become seriously ill. Give a copy of your living will and your medical power of attorney to the person you have chosen as your agent. You should keep a record of everyone who has a copy. Remember, you can change or cancel an advance directive at any time. If you wish to cancel an advance directive while you are in the hospital, tell your doctor, family, health care agent, and others who need to know.

Do I have to have an advance directive?
No one may force you to sign an advance directive. No one may deny you medical care or insurance coverage because you choose not to sign one. You are not required to complete advance directives as part of patient registration in a hospital, nursing home, or home health care agency. If you do sign one, it will not affect any other of your rights to consent to or refuse medical treatment.

What if I don't have an advance directive?
If you have not signed an advance directive and you become ill and cannot state your wishes, your attending physician and certain family members can make decisions about your care.

What are the Texas Health Resources policies about consenting to medical treatment?
Texas Health Resources hospitals are committed to honoring a patient's rights to make his or her own medical decisions, including the right to refuse treatment. The Texas Health Resources hospitals have adopted formal policies to respect your right to make an informed decision concerning your medical care to the extent permitted by law. In addition, the policies acknowledge a patient's right to have advance directives and to honor treatment decisions made by a patient's medical power of attorney. The policies describe the ways to inform patients about advance directives. If you would like to have more information about these policies, contact your nurse or doctor.

Where can I get the forms for a Living Will or Medical Power of Attorney?
You can obtain Texas Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney forms in the Pastoral Care and the Social Work Departments of the facility. These departments can provide you with information about advance directives. If you have questions, consult with your doctor, clergy, or attorney.

When should I complete one?
It is never too soon to talk about serious illness and what treatments you would desire if you were too sick or unable to state the treatment choices you would want to make. This topic is important for everyone to:

  • Think about
  • Talk about with your doctor and family
  • Put choices in writing in one or more advance directives

For Help
For help with filling out an advance directive, ask facility personnel to contact the appropriate staff member to assist you further. If you have an advance directive and you believe it is being ignored, please contact the administrator on duty for access to the facility's ethics committee as applicable. You may also contact the Texas Department of Health, Health Facility Compliance Division, 1100 West 49th Street, Austin, TX 78756 (1-800-228-1570) regarding your concerns.

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Organ Donation

Follow this link for more details on Organ Donation.

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