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YOUR LIFE: YOUR DECISIONS

Life and health are precious gifts from God.  As stewards rather than owners of these gifts, we are responsible for preserving, enhancing, and putting them to good use for ourselves and others.

LOOKING AHEAD TO THE FUTURE

All people experience sickness and one day you will have to make important decisions about your health care.  It is your right and your responsibility to make decisions to accept or refuse medical or surgical treatments.  Thus, it is important to look ahead and consider the possible health-related decisions you may face in the future.

It is advisable to discuss your views about such decisions with your family, loved ones, and physician(s) so that others can make those wishes known on your behalf should you become unable to communicate.  You can communicate your wishes through an Advance Directive, sometimes referred to as a Living Will, and/or appointing a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.  St. Francis Hospital & Health Services will honor your request within the limits of the law and our ethical and religious directives.

WHAT KINDS OF DECISIONS MIGHT YOU FACE?

  • Following are some questions that should be considered in planning your future health care needs:
  • In the event of irreversible and incurable illness, would I want my life prolonged by artificial means, such as a ventilator or feeding tube?
  • At what point would I want such measures stopped?
  • If I were suffering from a terminal illness and my heart and/or breathing stopped, would I want resuscitation efforts undertaken?
  • How aggressive would I want my doctor to be in trying to keep me alive?
  • Whom do I wish to make decisions for me if I am incompetent?
  • What comfort measures for pain control would you want?

HELP IN MAKING DECISIONS

  • In thinking about these and other difficult health care questions, it is helpful to obtain input from your physician(s), a nurse, and/or other health care professionals.  They can help you better understand available treatments/therapies and the effects of your decision(s) about the use or non-use of such treatments and therapies.
  • Additional help in dealing with these questions can be gained by talking with the hospital chaplain, your priest, minister, or rabbi.  They can help you clarify the limits of your stewardship responsibilities with regard to preserving life and resisting death.  They can also help you to understand your role in evaluating the possible benefits and burdens of life-prolonging treatments and therapies in light of your own values and goals in life.

THREE STEPS TO FOLLOW

1) You must be as clear as possible about the values that influence your decision in health care matters.  From that basis, you can determine what treatments or therapies you would want undertaken in various situations.  This is usually accomplished through discussions with your physician(s), family members, close friends, and clergy.  This step of the process is crucial and the outcome should be the reflection of your values and beliefs.

You should document your wishes as clearly and specifically as possible.  While this may be done in a number of written formats, it is important to remember that the goal of such a document is to assist others in making decisions about your care if you are unable to do so.  In Missouri, you can write your wishes out in an Advance Directive.  It is legally binding in a narrow set of circumstances surrounding terminal illness.  Regardless of its legal limitations, it is a highly effective guide for loved ones and caregivers in assuring that your wishes are followed during a serious illness.


2) You can also appoint a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care matters.  The person you name has the power to make health care decisions for you if you are not able to do this for yourself.  The person you choose will be the person with whom your doctors and other health care professionals discuss your medical care in the event that you are unable to do so.  In Missouri, it is important for you to be specific in your written Durable Power of Attorney about your wishes regarding the use of artificially-supplied nutrition and hydration.

3) Your wishes and the documents should be given to everyone who is likely to be involved in making decisions about your care.  This may include your family, treating physician(s), hospital, and clergy. 

St. Francis Hospital & Health Services abides by the provisions of the Federal Patient Self-Determination Act and the laws of the State of Missouri.

More information about an Advance Directive and/or Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care can be obtained in the Spiritual Care Office by calling (660) 562-2600 ext. 5200.

 
 
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