Advance Directives

Whether you are currently healthy or facing a health challenge, it is important to consider what your wishes would be if you were unable to give direction to your medical caregivers because of unforeseen circumstances.

Regardless of the reason for your upcoming hospital stay, now is a good time to consider documenting your wishes  so that family members will be confident making decisions on your behalf should it ever become necessary. Thinking about your preferences and discussing them with family and friends is important.

Documents called “Advance Directives” will make your wishes known to your physician. These documents state your choices for health care, or appoint someone to make those choices for you if you are unable to do so.

If you already have Advance Directives, please bring a copy with you to the hospital at the time of your admission.

The Patient Self-Determination Act went into effect on Dec. 1, 1991. This act requires hospitals, nursing facilities and other health care organizations to inform patients about Advance Directives by giving them written information at the time they are admitted.

If the patient has executed such a document, the signed document will then become a part of the patient's medical file for that admission only.

For years, fewer than 10 percent of all Americans had executed an Advance Directive. However, with the new law, both the young and old are encouraged to put their health care wishes in writing while they are still healthy and able to make these decisions.

Three types of advance directives can be prepared at St.Vincent. Call Pastoral Care, 338-2238, for assistance.

  • Appointment of a health care representative, who makes medical treatment decisions for you when you are no longer able. This representative acts under the conditions spelled out in writing by you, and the document must be witnessed by another adult.
  • A living will declaration tells physicians how much treatment you want to have should your condition be terminal and you are unable to communicate your wishes. With an emphasis on limiting treatment, the living will must be in writing, and there must be two adult witnesses.
  • A life-prolonging procedures declaration tells health care providers that you want everything possible to be done to prolong your life, regardless of your terminal condition. It also must be in writing, and there must be two adult witnesses.

A fourth type of Advance Directive is also an option but cannot be prepared at St.Vincent. Many people consult an attorney for the preparation of this document:

  • A durable power of attorney is another option allowed under Indiana law. This document identifies the person you wish to make health care decisions for you. Unlike the health care representative, who may only make health care decisions, the person to whom you have given power of attorney may also make personal and financial decisions for you. The decision-making power of this individual must be in writing and witnessed by a notary public.

If you have questions or concerns regarding advance directives, we encourage you to talk with your physician and loved ones. Even if you have been admitted to St.Vincent previously, we will need a current copy of your advance directive. Situations and wishes change so the hospital cannot assume that advance directives are valid from one admission to another.

If you need additional information about how to execute an advance directive, please contact the Pastoral Care Department at (317) 338-2238. After business hours, please ask your nurse to page the hospital chaplain.