Keep control of your life.
You don’t have to be at the mercy of doctors and relatives when you enter a hospital. You can make your wishes known through a Texas Advance Directive.
This is a little document that most attorneys will tell you about when you seek advice about estate planning or wills. There is a statutory form which should be used as the basis for the document – but then it should be customized to meet your beliefs, wants and needs. If you have already been diagnosed with a terminal condition, then you can be very specific about the type of care you want and don’t want.
Or you can make up your own form (not advised). In fact, you can just wait and give verbal instructions at the hospital (again, not advised). The hospital can’t require you to sign their version of the form in order to enforce it. A written Advance Directive must be either notarized or witnessed by two adults qualified under the statute.
As far as the hospital and doctor following your Advance Directive – there is the carrot, but not the stick. The hospital and doctor are released from civil and criminal liability if they follow your Advance Directive. They aren’t legally obligated to honor it, however. The statute has an entire section devoted to your next course of action – from appeals to the hospital ethics board to transfers to another facility. See the website for the Texas Health Care Information Council http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/thcic/Registry.shtm for a registry of facilities that have agreed to accept transfers of patients with Advance Directives.
If you have a written Advance Directive, take it to the hospital and give it to them. They are legally required to keep a copy in your patient file. Ask them if they will follow it.
If you don’t have a written Advance Directive and are incompenent or incapable of communication, then you should be interested in who, under the law, is next in line to make decisions for you. The attending physician and your guardian, or agent under a medical power of attorney, have the first shot. Then it devolves to relatives. First, your spouse (not a good idea if you are on the outs or in the midst of a divorce). Second, your “reasonably available” adult children. Third, your parents, Fourth, your nearest living relative. If none of those are available, then your treating physician has to be joined by another physician not involved in your treatment or who is a representative of the hospital’s ethics board.
Questions? Call our office to schedule an appointment. We’ll be happy to help.