Legal & Ethical Decisions

Advance Directives and Other Important Medical Decisions

During your time at Houston Northwest Medical Center, you may need to make decisions concerning your care. We’re committed to following your wishes and helping ensure that you’re well informed to make important decisions about your care. One of the ways that you can be prepared to express your wishes is through advance directives.

Advance Directives

Dealing with a serious illness or life-threatening emergency can be difficult. There may be situations where others must make a decision on your behalf if you’re unable to make your own medical decisions. Advance directives are designed to help ensure you receive care in accordance with your wishes.

How Advance Directives Work

An advance directive is a tool that can help you tell others about your wishes regarding treatments such as resuscitation and life-support machines. This legal document allows you to state what your preferences are for medical care and may be used to accept or refuse any procedure or treatment, including life-sustaining treatment. You’re not required to complete an advance directive. Choosing to sign one is a personal choice with no right or wrong decision.

If you choose to complete one, the originals should be given to your health care agent. They should also be made part of your permanent medical record and copies filed with your doctor. Copies should also be provided to family members or close friends who might accompany you to the hospital. Please bring your advance directive to Houston Northwest Medical Center, so that it can be made part of your hospital record.

You have the right to revoke your advance directive or replace it at any time.

Types of Advance Directives

  • Living will: This is a written, legal document that clearly states what types of medical treatments and life-sustaining measures you do and don’t want. These can include being placed on a ventilator (a machine that breathes for you), having tube feeding, undergoing surgery, etc. This document may also be called a health care declaration or health care directive.
  • Durable power of attorney for health care decisions: Also called a medical power of attorney, this legal document designates someone to make medical decisions for you if you become unable to do so. The person you designate is your health care agent or proxy. This document applies only to medical decisions and does not grant this person the rights to make financial transactions for you.

Choosing a Health Care Agent

Deciding on a health care agent is not a decision to take lightly. This person doesn’t have to be a member of your family, but should be someone with whom you’re comfortable discussing end-of-life decisions. Once you’ve chosen an individual, you should talk with that person to make sure he or she is willing and able to act as your agent for health care decisions. Once he or she agrees, you also should inform your family and doctor about who you’ve selected. You may also choose to name an alternate health care agent in case your primary person can’t be reached in an emergency.