Before you write your instructions down, you may wish to discuss them with your doctor, member of your family, friends or other appropriate persons, such as a member of the clergy. If you are writing a durable power of attorney for health care, you should also discuss your wishes with the person you are naming as your attorney-in-fact. Similarly, if you are writing a living will and naming someone in that document to carry out your wishes, you should discuss your wishes with that person.
You should give your written instructions to your family doctor and, if applicable, to your hospital, nursing home or other health care provider. You may also want to give a copy to your family or anyone else involved in your health care decision-making process, and you should also keep a copy for your own records.
If you become unable to express your wishes about your medical care or treatment and do not leave instructions regarding your wishes or name a person who will make decisions for you, a health care provider may ask your family or the courts to make decisions about your care and treatment.
Oral directions which you have given to your physician or your family will sometimes be followed by health care providers, depending on how detailed and recent those instructions were. Thus, you may wish to tell your personal physician and your family your wishes about future treatment, even if you choose not to sign some sort of advance directive.
No. It's your decision. Under the law, a health care provider may not determine the type of care needed for you, or otherwise discriminate against you, on the basis of whether you have written such a document. Moreover, under Pennsylvania law, no health care provider or insurer may charge a different fee or rate depending on whether you have executed a living will.
The law in Pennsylvania is unclear. It is possible, however, that at the very least your doctor, hospital or a judge may use such documents to determine who will make decisions about your care and what those decisions will be.
In addition to a lawyer, there are many individuals and groups that can provide you with information about such documents. Here are some that you may wish to consult:
Your local long term care ombudsman, who can be reached by calling your community's Area Agency on Aging. The telephone number is in the blue pages of your telephone book.
Office of the State Long Term Care Ombudsman
PA Department of Aging
400 Market St., 7th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17101-2301
Pennsylvania Council on Aging
400 Market St., 6th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17101-2301
Gift of Life Donor Program
2000 Hamilton St., Suite 201
Philadelphia, PA 19130-3831
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