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How Advance Directives Work

Being a patient sometimes requires making difficult decisions about health care and end-of-life care. Here, in summary form, are commonly asked questions about advance directives:

Question: Who has the right to make your health care decisions?

Answer: You do, if you are capable of making and communicating your health care decisions. Your doctors should tell you about the treatment they recommend, important medical risks and benefits of the treatment, and other treatment options. You decide what health care, if any, you will or will not accept. To make decisions about your future treatment if you become unable to make your own decisions, you will need to prepare an advance directive.

Question: What if I become unable to make or communicate my health care decisions?

Answer: There may come a time when your doctor determines that you are unable to make or communicate your health care decisions. You can still have control over these decisions if you have signed an advance health care directive, such as a health care power of attorney, a living will or a mental health care power of attorney. Banner Health will care for you whether or not you have an advance directive.

Question: Must your doctor and surrogates honor your health care directives?

Answer: Yes. Both health care providers and surrogates must follow valid health care directives. However, a doctor is not required under state law to follow a health care directive if to do so would be against his conscience. In such a situation, the doctor must immediately attempt to transfer your care to another doctor who will honor your health care directives.

Question: Must you complete all three documents?

Answer: The choice is yours depending on your needs and wishes. The health care power of attorney, the mental health care power of attorney and the living will are all tools for you to use to express your wishes and/or designate decision makers to carry out your wishes. They may be separate documents or combined into one document.

Question: Must you have a lawyer prepare your health care directive?

Answer: No. Banner Health offers advance directive forms to be downloaded and will give you the forms personally upon request. There are local and national agencies and organizations that can provide you with information on health care directives, including forms. Be sure that any the health care directive you use is valid in your state.

Question: What assistance will Banner Health staff give me if I am interested in completing a health care directive?

Answer: We will care for you whether or not you have a health care directive. If you want to complete a living will, a health care power of attorney or a mental health care power of attorney while in the hospital, forms are available upon your request.

Nursing, Social Services or Patient Relations staff can provide you with basic information about filling out the forms, but they cannot assist you in writing your own directives and cannot provide legal advice. We encourage you to discuss your treatment choices and the medical consequences of those choices with your doctor.

Question: Who should have a copy of your health care directives?

Answer: Give copies of your health care directives to your doctors and your loved ones and carry a copy with you at all times. Give copies to the people who have health care power of attorney and/or a mental health care power of attorney. You should also keep extra copies for yourself. If you are admitted to the hospital, give a copy of your health care directive to an admissions representative, nurse, social worker, Patient Relations representative or doctor involved in your care. Banner will add your health care directive to your medical record so it can be located during any future visits.

Question: Can you change or cancel your health care directive?

Answer: Yes. If you change or cancel/redo your health care directive or change those who have health care power of attorney, be sure to notify anyone who has a copy of your health care directive and provide them with your new directives. You should tell your doctor about any changes you have made or wish to make. You may cancel/redo your health care directive orally, in writing or by destroying it.

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