Your Right to make your Medical Treatment Decisions
We are giving you this material to inform you about your right to make your own decisions about your medical treatment. As a competent adult, you have the right to accept or refuse any medical treatment. Competent means you have the ability to understand your medical condition and the medical treatments for it, to weigh the possible benefits and risks of each treatment and then to decide whether you want to accept treatment or not.
Who decides what treatment I will get?
As long as you are a competent adult, you are the only person who can decide what medical treatment you want to accept or decline. You will be given information and advice about the pros and cons of different kinds of treatment and you can ask questions about your options. But only you can say "yes" or "no" to any treatment offered. You can say "no" even if the treatment you refuse might keep you alive longer and even if others want you to have it.
What if I'm in no condition to decide?
If you are unable to make your own decisions about medical care, decisions will have to be made for you. If you haven't given prior instructions, no one will know what you would want. There may be difficult questions, for instance, would you refuse treatment if you were unconscious and not likely to wake up? Would you want to receive any treatment your caregivers recommend? When your wishes are not known, your family or the courts may have to decide what to do.
What can I do now to see that my wishes are honored in the future?
While you are competent, you can name someone to make medical treatment decisions for you should you ever be unable to make them for yourself. To be certain that the person you name has the legal right to make those decisions, you must fill out a form called either a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care or a Patient Advocate Designation. The person named in the form to make or carry out your decisions about treatment is called a Patient Advocate. You have the right to give your Patient Advocate, your caregivers, and your family and friends written or spoken instructions about what medical treatment you want and don't want to receive.
Who can be my Patient Advocate?
You can choose anyone to be your Patient Advocate as long as the person is at least 18 years old. You can pick a family member, a friend, or any other person you trust, but you should make sure that the person is willing to serve by signing an acceptance form. It is a good idea to name a backup choice, in case the first person is unwilling or unable to act when the time comes.
Where can I get Patient Advocate Forms?
Eaton Rapids Medical Center, along with many Michigan Hospitals, health maintenance organizations, nursing homes, homes for the aged, hospices, and home health care agencies make forms available to people free of charge. Many senior citizens' groups, church, and civic groups do, too. You can also get a free form from various members of the Michigan legislature. Many lawyers also prepare Patient Advocate Designations for their clients. The forms are not all alike; therefore, pick the one which suits your situation the best.
We encourage patients or family members dealing with ethically difficult decisions to contact the Eaton Rapids Medical Center Ethics Committee by asking for the administrator on call or contacting Sheryl James, Director of Quality and Risk at 517.663.9419. The Ethics Committee has partnered with MSU's Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences and can draw on its assistance when needed. Click here for more information.