Before a serious illness or injury occurs, you are encouraged to think and talk with loved ones about your wishes for end-of-life medical care. California law provides you with the ability to ensure that your health care wishes are known and considered if you become unable to make these decisions yourself.
Advance Health Care Directives are the legally recognized format for making your wishes known, including the types of special treatment you want or don’t want at the end of life as well as your desire for surgical intervention, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and organ donation. An advance directive also allows you to designate someone who will have legal authority to make health care decisions for you.
There are three key steps involved in making your wishes known:
- Gather information for decision-making. Your physician is a good place to start for understanding your options for health care treatment at the end of life. You may also wish to consult with an attorney or with your religious leaders.
- Discuss your end-of-life decisions with loves ones. Talk about the specific medical treatments you want or don’t want, where you want to spend the time before you die (at home, in a hospital, or in a nursing home), and options for palliative care and pain management.
- Complete an Advance Care Directive Form. You have a legal right to express your health care wishes and have them considered in situations when you are unable to make these decisions yourself.