Plan for future medical care in case you are unable to make your
own decisions. There's only one person who is truly qualified
to tell health care providers how you feel about different kinds of
health care issues-and that's you. But, what if you get sick, or
injured so severely that you can't communicate with your doctors or
family members? Have you thought about what kinds of medical care
you would want? Do your loved ones and health care providers know
your wishes? Many people assume that close family members
automatically know what they want.
You can help assure that your wishes will direct future health
care decisions through the process of advance care planning.
A health care proxy lets you name someone to make decisions
about your medical care--including decisions about life support--if
you can no longer speak for yourself. It becomes effective any time
you are unable to make your own medical decisions, not only at the
end of life.
A living will is a document that provides specific instructions
about health care treatment. It is generally used to declare
wishes to refuse life-sustaining treatment under certain
circumstances. A Living Will is a state-specific legal
document. The National
Hospice and Palliative Care Organization provides free
state-specific advance directive documents and
Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST) Program is
designed to improve the quality of care people receive at the end
of life. MOLST is New York State's Physicians Orders for
Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) Paradigm Program. These
programs are based on effective communication of patient wishes,
documentation of medical orders on a brightly colored form, and a
promise by health care professionals to honor these
Each day, about 70 people receive an organ transplant. However,
17 people die each day waiting for transplants that can't take
place because of the shortage of donated organs. Making your
decision to donate your organs known can save lives. Visit
the Official Organ Donation
and Transplantation Web site of the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services to download a donor card.
Make these decisions in advance, not just when you are
planning to enter the hospital.