Advance Medical Directives
Advance Medical Directives are legal directions that are written by you while you are mentally and physically able to do so, and they take effect when you can no longer communicate your wishes. These directives are very important because they make your wishes about what health care options you want, clear and understandable.
Examples of advance medical directives:
- Living Will
- Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
- Organ Donation Cards
What is a living will?
According to Montana law, a living will is a set of written instructions that tells others what health care you want or don’t want should you become terminally ill. It is used only in situations where you are no longer able to make health care decisions, and your doctor believes you have an incurable health condition that will cause your death.
It is called a living will because it takes effect while your are still alive. If you complete a living will, it must be witnessed by two individuals, preferably who are not heirs or immediate family. You can also designate a “proxy” who would make these decisions for you if you do not wish to or were unable to make them yourself. Please be aware that even if you do have a written living will, you can still change your mind at any time.
Why have a living will?
Since a living will is written by you, it gives clear direction about both your values and your wishes regarding what medical treatments you want and shows that you have carefully thought about your decision. For your family, a living will can ease the indecision and concern about your care. For hospitals and caregivers, these documents help guide important decision making.
Will a living will limit my medical care?
No. A living will simply declares your wishes about what life-sustaining care you do or do not want. It will in no way affect the quality of the care you choose to ensure your comfort, such as pain relief.
What is durable power of attorney for health care?
Montana law states that a durable power of attorney for health care is another form of advance medical directive. It is one that can relate to any medical condition, not just a terminal illness. These documents allow you to name a person or proxy to make health care decisions for you if you become unable to do so.
What should I do with my living will and durable power of attorney for health care documents?
Make copies for your family, your physician, and your hospital’s medical records department where it will be placed in you medical record. Keep the original for yourself and store it in a safe place. Be sure your family know your wishes and where you keep your documents.
POLST is the Providers Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) program in Montana. It is designed to improve the quality of care people receive at the end of life. This is accomplished by the development of an effective communication process to assure patient wishes are communicated to the medical providers. The process utilizes a POLST form, which is official documentation of medical orders on a standardized form coupled with a promise by health care professionals to honor those wishes. Learn more about POLST.
What about organ donation?
Many people do not think about their own death and do not plan for organ or tissue donation. Montana residents may express their wish to donate organs on their drivers’ license, but even so, family members are asked for written permission at the time of death.
Federal and state law requires that hospitals offer organ and tissue donation as an option when it is appropriate. Your physician or a Billings Clinic representative can talk to you about organ donations following the death of your loved one. Although it is difficult time for you and your family, be assured that any decision you make will be understood and supported.
Billings Clinic honors your right to have an advance medical directive but we do not require you to have one. If you would like more information about advance medical directives such as living wills, durable power of attorney for health care, COMFORT ONE or organ donation, contact:
- Your nurse at Billings Clinic
- Billings Clinic Pastoral Care Services, 657-4747
- Billings Clinic HealthLine, 255-8400 or 1-800-252-1246
- Billings Clinic Foundation, 657-4670 or 1-800-332-7156