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Advance Directives

At St. Mary’s General Hospital we support your right to make certain decisions concerning your medical treatment. It is your right, under certain conditions, to refuse medical treatment, including termination of treatment that would prolong your life artificially. Your decisions/wishes about these issues may be spelled out by you in the form of an advance directive.

An advance directive is a document that allows you to direct who will make healthcare decisions for you and to state your wishes for medical treatment if you become unable to decide for yourself in the future. Your advance directive may be used to accept or refuse any procedures or treatment, including life-sustaining treatment.

What types of advance directive can you use?

There are 3 kinds of advance directives that you can use to say what you want and who you want your doctors to listen to:

  1. Proxy Directive (also called a “durable power of attorney for healthcare”) lets you name a “healthcare representative,” such as a family member or friend, to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.
  2. An Instruction Directive (also called a “living will”) lets you state what kinds of medical treatments you would accept or reject in certain situations.
  3. Combined Directive lets you do both. It lets you name a healthcare representative and tells that person your treatment wishes.

Who can fill out these forms?

You can fill out an advance directive in NJ if you are 18 years or older and you are able to make your own decisions. You do not need a lawyer to fill it out.

What should I do with my advance directive?

  • You should talk to your doctor about it and give a copy to him or her. You should also give a copy to your healthcare representative, family member(s), or others close to you. Bring a copy with you when you must receive medical care from a hospital, nursing home, or other healthcare agency. Your advance directive becomes part of your medical records.

What if I don’t have an advance directive?

If you become unable to make treatment decisions and you do not have an advance directive, your close family members will talk to your doctor and in most cases, may then make decisions on your behalf. However, if your family, doctor, or other caregivers disagree about your medical care, it may be necessary for a court to appoint someone as your legal guardian. (This also may be needed if you do not have a family member to make decisions on your behalf.) That’s why it’s important to put your wishes in writing to make it clear who should decide for you and to help your family and doctor know what you want.

Will my advance directive be followed?

Yes. Everyone responsible for your care must respect the wishes you have stated in your advance directive. However, if your doctor, nurse, or other professional has a sincere objection to respecting your wishes to refuse life-sustaining treatment, they may have your care transferred to another professional who will carry them out.

What if I change my mind?

You can change or revoke any of these documents at any time.

Will I still be treated if I don’t fill out an advance directive?

Yes. You don’t have to fill out any forms if you don’t want to and you will still get medical treatment. Your insurance company also cannot deny coverage based on whether or not you have an advance directive.

It is the policy of St. Mary’s General Hospital to honor advance directives except for directives which are prohibited by law, or contrary to ethical and religious teachings of the church.

If you are interested in completing an advance directive, or if you would like additional information about this, please ask to speak to a social worker.