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Advance Directives


Communicating your healthcare choices


To obtain an Advanced Directive, see the CRITICAL Conditions link below or call the Health Information Management Department of Bacon County Hospital and Health System at (912)-632-8961.

Introduction

Questions about medical care at the end of life are very important because of the ability of medical technology to prolong life and because of highly publicized court cases involving comatose or dying patients. The best way to be in control of your medical treatment is to record your preferences in advance.

What are advance directives?

Advance directives are documents written in advance of serious illness stating your choices about medical treatment or name someone to make choices for you, if you become unable to make decisions. Through advance directives such as living wills and durable powers of attorney for healthcare, you can legally make valid decisions about future medical treatment.

What does Georgia law say about the subject?

Generally you have the right to refuse any medical or surgical treatment you do not wish to receive. Georgia law allows you to sign advance directives so that your wishes will be followed, even if you become unable to communicate them to your healthcare provider.

What is a living will?

A living will is a document in which you can instruct your physician to withhold and/or withdraw life-sustaining procedures if you become terminally ill. State law describes the kind of form which must be used in order to have a valid living will. A living will must be signed, dated and witnessed. A lawyer is not needed to draw up a living will, although you may decide consultation with a lawyer is desirable.

What is a durable power of attorney for healthcare?

A durable power of attorney is a kind of advance directive: a signed, dated and witnessed legal document in which you can name another person, an agent, to make medical decisions for you, if you become unable to make them. In a healthcare power of attorney, you can describe treatment you want and do not want.

Also, this form of advance directive can relate to any medical condition (such as Alzheimer's Disease) and not just a terminal illness. Georgia law describes a healthcare power of attorney form, but other forms are also acceptable. A durable power of attorney for healthcare form can be written without the advice of a lawyer, although you may decide consultation with a lawyer to be helpful.

Are advance directives just for "senior citizens"?

No. A severe illness or serious accident can happen to a person at any age. If you have strong feelings about what choices you would want made in such a situation, regardless of age, your encouraged to consider signing an advance directive.

Can an advance directive be changed?

These documents can be changed at anytime. If you do make changes to an advance directive, be sure to destroy all outdated copies and provide copies of the new version to your family, physician and attorney. If you wish to revoke an advance directive while receiving treatment at a hospital, just notify your physician or nurse.

Will an advance directive be honored in an emergency?

Usually it is impossible to determine the chances for survival in an emergency situation or to determine the outlook for recovery. After the initial emergency has passed, and depending on your condition, your advance directive may come into play if you are unable to express your wishes.

Is there a limit on how long an advance directive is valid?

No, but you are encouraged to update any advance directive periodically since this indicates you have given the matter a great deal of thought.

Are there any limitations on carrying out the directive if I am pregnant?

Yes. Most likely any instructions which would result in withdrawing life prolonging treatments would not be honored during the time you are pregnant.

Can I be refused admission to a hospital if I do not have an advance directive?

No. Federal law prohibits a hospital for refusing to admit a patient because he or she does not have an advance directive. However, hospitals are required to ask adult patients if they have advance directives, document their answers and provide information on state laws and hospital policies about advance directives.

Does Bacon County Hospital and Health System have a policy about advance directives?

Yes, it is our policy to honor a patient's advance directive, if it meets the requirements of state law. We recognize, and respect the rights of patients to accept or reject offered medical or surgical treatment, to the extent permitted by law.

Where can I get forms for advance directives?

You can obtain living will and durable power of attorney for healthcare forms from us, or by writing the Medical Association of Georgia, the State Bar Association or the Georgia Hospital Association. If you plan to sign the documents while receiving treatment at the hospital, you or your family members will be responsible for assuring that witnesses, other than hospital personnel, are present when you sign the documents, as required by law.

CRITICAL Conditions
1-877-633-2433 (toll free)
CRITICAL Conditions Website

Georgia Hospital Association
1675 Terrell Mill Road
Marietta, Georgia 30367
404-955-0324
Georgia Hospital Association Website

Medical Association of Georgia
938 Peachtree Street
Atlanta, GA 30309
404-876-7535
Medical Association of Georgia Website

State Bar of Georgia
50 Hurt Plaza, Suite 800
Atlanta, GA 30303-2934
404-527-8700
State Bar of Georgia Website