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 instructions.
The 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 wishes.
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.