In the past, it was not possible to keep people alive indefinitely once normal body functions had stopped. Today, however, heart and body functions can be sustained through machines even if there is no hope that a person will recover. If a person has failed to make his or her wishes regarding medical care known, doctors may have no choice but to continue life-sustaining measures. Competent adults have the legal right to refuse medical treatment. By putting your wishes in writing while you are still healthy, you can make sure your family and health care providers know how you want your medical care handled should you become unable to speak for yourself. You also relieve your family and health care providers of the emotional and legal burden of such decisions. Advance directives allow you to control decisions regarding your medical care. A living will allows you to specify what types of medical care you do or do not want should you become terminally ill and unable to speak for yourself. Through a durable power of attorney for health care, you can appoint someone to be your health agent, that is, to speak for you if you are unable to make your wishes known. The person you have appointed as a health agent would make decisions about your medical care based on what he or she believes you would want. A health agent can speak for you in any medical situation, not just during terminal illness (for example, if you were unconscious due to an injury).
Concern over patients’ rights regarding life support and medical care has become so important, that the federal government and state law (Reference: Louisiana Revised Statutes, Section 40:1299.581 et seq, Revised 10/90) requires most hospitals to ask all adult patients who are admitted if they have living wills. If you have a living will or durable power of attorney, you should bring the document(s) with you when you are admitted. If you do not have a living will and would like to know more, you will be given information about writing this legal document. However, you are not obliged to do so.
You do not need an attorney to declare advance directives, but an attorney may be helpful if you have any questions about the legal aspects of such documents. Advance directives must be signed by two witnesses not related to you and you should give copies to your family, health care providers, and health agent. You may change or revoke your decision at any time. For more information on advance directives or for copies of a living will and durable power of attorney forms, call Social Services at extension 4080.
TGMC is committed to the process of decision-making about a patient’s treatment in a joint manner. In that joint process, the primary role of the physician is providing information (about the patient’s condition, the nature of the proposed treatment, its possible benefits and risks, alternatives to the proposed treatment, and whether the treatment is experimental) and making a treatment recommendation. The primary role of the patient is to accept or reject that recommendation in light of the provided information and in light of the individual values of the patient. These values may involve the special commitments of different religions or cultures. The process of joint decision-making normally involves the attending physician (and such consultants as he/she asks to participate) and the patient. If the patient is a minor, the legal guardian and/or the parents normally replace the patient in the decision-making process. If the patient is an incompetent adult, the legal guardian or the person who has the patient’s durable power of attorney normally replaces the patient in the decision-making process. It is hoped and expected that this process of joint decision-making will lead to a therapeutic plan that is acceptable to both the physician and the patient. There will be occasions, however, when that is not possible. In such cases, referral of the patient to another physician or the situation to the hospital’s Ethics Committee may become appropriate. When appropriate, informed consent cannot be obtained because of the emergency nature of the case and the unavailability of someone competent to consent, emergency treatment will be performed to preserve the life of the patient or to prevent an impairment of the patient’s health.
Pain is an uncomfortable feeling that tells you something may be wrong in your body. Sometimes pain may be a nuisance, like a mild headache, or may be more severe after surgery. Our health professionals will respond quickly to your reports of pain. There are various forms of pain management available. The type of pain management will be determined by your needs and the physician’s orders. If your pain is not relieved with the medication ordered, be sure to tell your nurse. You can assist your nurse in determining your pain level by rating your pain on a scale of 1-10. A score of 0 would mean no pain; a score of 10 would mean the worst pain.
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