Health Care Decision Making

   You have the right to choose the type of health care that you receive.

   Should you become unable to understand, make or communicate
decisions about your medical care, your wishes for medical treatment will
most likely be followed if you express those wishes in advance by:

   (1)        naming a health care agent to decide the type of treatment
you will receive; and

   (2)        giving health care treatment instructions to your health care
agent or health care provider

   An advance health care directive is a written set of instructions
expressing your wishes for medical treatment.  It may contain a health
care power of attorney, in which you name a person called a “health care
agent” to decide treatment for you, and a living will, in which you tell your
health care agent and health care providers your choices regarding the
initiation, continuation, withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining
treatment and other care.

   You may limit your health care agent’s involvement in deciding your
medical treatment so that your health care agent will speak for you only
when you are unable to speak for yourself.  You may also give your
health care agent the power to speak for you immediately.  A living will
will be followed only if your attending physician determines that you lack
the ability to understand, make or communicate health care decisions for
yourself and you are either permanently unconscious or you have an
end-stage medical condition, which is a condition that will result in death
despite the introduction or continuation of medical treatment.  You, and
not your health care agent, remain responsible for the cost of your
medical care.

   If you do not write down your wishes about your health care in
advance, and if later you become unable to understand, make or
communicate your wishes on your own, your health care providers might
not follow your wishes if they do not know what they are.

   A health care provider who refuses to honor your wishes about health
care must tell you of its refusal, and must help to transfer you to a health
care provider who will honor your wishes.

   You should give a copy of your advance health care directive (a living
will, health care power of attorney or a document containing both) to your
health care agent, your physicians, family members and others whom
you expect would likely attend to your needs if you become unable to
understand, make or communicate decisions about medical care.

   If your health care wishes change, tell your physician and write a new
advance health care directive to replace your old one.  When you select
a health care agent, it is important that you choose a person you trust
and who is likely to be available to make medical decisions for you if  you
cannot make them for yourself.  You should inform that person that you
have appointed him or her as your health care agent and discuss your
beliefs and values with him or her so that your health care agent will
understand your health care desires.  You may wish to consult with
knowledgeable, trusted individuals such as family members, your
physician, or clergy when considering an expression of your values and
health care wishes.  You are free to create your own advance health
care directive to convey your wishes regarding medical treatment.

   You may choose whether you want your health care agent to be
bound by your instructions or whether you want your health care agent to
be able to decide at the time what course of treatment the health care
agent thinks most full reflects your wishes and values.

   If you are a woman who is pregnant when a health care decision would
otherwise be made by following your advance health care directive,
understand that current Pennsylvania law prohibits your wishes from
being followed if your wish is that life-sustaining treatment, including
nutrition and hydration, be withheld or withdrawn from you.  That directive
will be followed only if your attending physician and an obstetrician who
have examined you certify in your medical record that the life-sustaining

   1.        Will not maintain you in such a way as to permit the continuing
development and live birth of the unborn child;

   2.        Will be physically harmful to you; or

   3.        Will cause pain to you that medication will not reduce.

   A physician is not required to perform a pregnancy test on you unless
the physician has reason to believe that you may be pregnant.

   Pennsylvania law protects your health care agent and health care
providers from any legal liability for following in good faith your wishes as
expressed in the form or by your health care agent’s direction.  It does
not otherwise change professional standards or excuse negligence in the
way your wishes are carried out.  If you have any questions about the law
which applies to the use of living wills and health care directives, you
should, consult an attorney for guidance.
   This explanation of the advance health care directive and living will is
not intended to  take the place of specific legal advice which you obtain
based after consideration of your specific circumstances, and goals by
an attorney.  Nor is this explanation intended to take the place of specific
medical advice, which you would obtain from a physician who is
thoroughly familiar with your physical, mental and medical conditions.
Answers to Your
Legal Questions
The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal
advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your
own situation.

Copyright © 2015 by Shire Law Firm. All rights reserved. You may reproduce
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For a more detailed look at Advanced Health
Care Directives, please visit the
Pennsylvania Medical Society's guide to Act
169 of 2006, located
1711 Grand Blvd.
Park Centre
Monessen, PA 15062