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Advance Directives

Advanced directives let you communicate your wishes to your loved ones and physicians about health care decisions such as life support and organ donation.

A time may come when you are unable to make your own health care decisions. Advanced directives allow your loved ones, and the medical staff in charge of your care, know your wishes regarding the level and length of care you receive and whether life support should be continued or withdrawn.

Preparing Your Advance Directives

Advance Directives

You have the right to:

  • Create advance directives, which are legal papers that allow you to decide now what you want to happen if you are no longer healthy enough to make decisions about your care. You have the right to have hospital staff comply with these directives.
  • Ask about and discuss the ethics of your care, including resolving any conflicts that might arise such as deciding against, withholding, or withdrawing life-sustaining care.

Care Planning

You have the right to:

  • Receive a medical screening exam to determine treatment.
  • Participate in the care that you receive in the hospital.
  • Receive instructions on follow-up care and participate in decisions about your plan of care after you are out of the hospital.
  • Receive a prompt and safe transfer to the care of others when this hospital is not able to meet your request or need for care or service. You have the right to know why a transfer to another health care facility might be required, as well as learning about other options for care. The hospital cannot transfer you to another hospital unless that hospital has agreed to accept you.

Advance directives usually include a Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney for health care Decisions.

Living Will

A Living Will is a legal document or paper stating your wishes about treatment.

This only takes effect when:

  • Your physician has a copy of it, and
  • Your physician has determined you are unable to make decisions about your medical care, and
  • Your physician and a second physician have determined that you are in a terminal condition or in a state of permanent unconsciousness.

A Durable Power Of Attorney For health care Decisions

A Durable Power of Attorney for health care Decisions is a legal paper on which you name someone to make medical decisions for you if you cannot speak for yourself.

Examples of advance directives can be obtained from your physician, hospital or from local groups such as the American Association of Retired Persons, the local Bar Association or County Area Agency on Aging offices. A sample of a Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for health care Decisions is included in the back of the UPMC Pinnacle patient handbook.

You do not need a lawyer to write a Living Will or a Durable Power of Attorney, however there are some legal rules that a lawyer will know best how to handle.

Bringing Your Advance Directives To The Hospital

To make sure that your choices about life support are carried out, bring a copy of your Living Will and/or Durable Power of Attorney for health care Decisions with you when admitted to a hospital, nursing home, hospice or clinic. These instructions will be added to your medical record.

If you don't have these papers when you enter one of our health care centers, ask your family to bring a copy for your records, or someone from these facilities can assist you in completing one.

Organ And Tissue Donation

Organ and tissue donation can save lives. Today many organs and tissues can be transplanted including kidneys, liver, heart, lungs, bone, skin (for severe burn victims), bone marrow, corneas and blood vessels.

Anyone can make the decision to be a donor, however if you are under 18 your parent or legal guardian must co-sign. Designating your intent to be a donor on your license or donor card is a valid and legal gift document. Share your decision with your family so they are aware and can help carry out your wishes. Donor cards are available through UPMC Pinnacle and by contacting the Gift of Life Donor Program at 1-800-366-6771.

Ethics Committee

When a health care choice involves an ethical concern, such as a family member's wish to refuse life sustaining treatment, or a disagreement between family members or other caregivers concerning advance directives, decision-making can become overwhelming.

Our Bioethics Committee is available to hear such concerns. Requests for a consultation may be made by the patient, a family member, the physician, nurse or other staff member. Patients and families can call the Pastoral Care Office directly or ask any staff person for assistance in directing a concern to the Ethics Committee.

To schedule a consultation with the Ethics Committee, please call 717-782-5220.

Where To Go For More Information About Advance Directives

In addition to a lawyer, your nurse or the unit/floor's nurse manager, the Social Work Department or the Hospital's Patient Representative are resources to assist you.

There are many individuals and groups that can provide you with more information about Living Wills and Durable Power of Attorney for health care Decisions including:

Area Agency on Aging (AAA)
You will find your community AAA phone number in the blue pages of your phone book.

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
225 Market St.
Harrisburg, PA 17101
717-238-2277

Office of the State Long Term Care Ombudsmen
Pennsylvania Department of Aging
555 Walnut St.
5th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17101-1919
717-783-7247

The Pennsylvania Medical Society Division of Communication and Public Affairs
707 East Park Dr.
Harrisburg, PA 17105-8820
717-558-7750

Pennsylvania Council on Aging
555 Walnut St.
5th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17101-1919
717-783-1924

Additional Resources

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