More than ever before, people with cancer and their families are being asked to take part in decisions about end- of-life care. The information provided is designed to help patients and their families understand the medical, legal and personal choices they may face in the future.
Speak with your Cancer Care Coordinator if you’d like more information on health care directives.
What is a Health Care Directive?
A health care directive is a legal document that a person uses to make known his or her wishes regarding prolonging medical treatments. It can also be referred to as an advance directive, living will, or Five Wishes.
- For a health care directive to be legal in the state of Minnesota, it must:
- Be in writing
- Bear the name and signature (or mark) of the person to whom it applies
- Be dated
- Name a health care agent (decision-maker) and/or state the wishes/preferences about care
- Be executed by a person with the capacity to understand and make decisions
- Be verified by two witnesses or a Notary Public
It is not necessary to have an attorney provide or fill out the form. In fact, it is not necessary to use a preprinted form at all. Any written statement that meets the requirements stated above can serve as a legal health care directive.
Most living wills only apply if you have a terminal illness. A health care directive can apply any time you are unable to decide for yourself. Giving someone the power of attorney for health care only gives that person the power to make health care decisions. A separate process is required to give someone power of attorney for financial or business decisions.
There are many types of life-sustaining care that should be taken into consideration when drafting a living will.
Points to consider
- Use of life-sustaining equipment (dialysis machines, ventilators, and respirators)
- “Do not resuscitate” orders; that is, instructions not to use CPR if breathing or heartbeat stops
- Artificial hydration and nutrition (tube feeding)
- Withholding of food and fluids
- Palliative / comfort care
- Organ and tissue donation
It is also important to understand that a decision not to receive “aggressive medical treatment” is not the same as withholding all medical care. A patient can still receive antibiotics, pain medication, radiation therapy, and other interventions when the goal of treatment becomes comfort rather than cure.
Free Counseling Service
Rice Memorial Hospital has trained volunteers who offer free counseling services on how to fill out the Advance Directive form, as well as how to “start the conversation” with family members.
To register for your free Health Care Directive counseling session, please call (320) 231-4069.
It’s about how you LIVE
L – Learn about options
I – Implement a plan
V – Voice the plan to others
E – Engage others to LIVE