When is the right time to name someone to speak for you in case of a serious
illness? The answer, of course, is when you are in good health. However,
most people are reluctant to talk about their medical wishes in the event
of serious illness or end of life. Unfortunately, this can result in family
conflict and confusion at a time when you cannot speak for yourself.
In observance of National Healthcare Decisions Day on April 16, the Southeast
Georgia Health System Medical Ethics Advisory Committee encourages the
community to do two important things: select a health care agent (i.e.,
a person with the legal authority to make health care decisions on another's
behalf should they lose the ability to do so themselves), and share your
wishes about future health care with that person.
"We encourage all adults, regardless of age or current health, to
consider what their health care choices would be if they were unable to
speak for themselves, and then make certain their choices are followed
by completing an advance health care directive," says Christy D.
Jordan, R.N., J.D., director, Risk Management and Assistant General Counsel
at Southeast Georgia Health System. "Planning health care decisions
in advance helps you make an informed, thoughtful decision when you are
not under any pressure."
Jordan says that people have the right to control their health care options,
such as exercising the right to choose in advance whether to accept life-sustaining
As director of the Health System’s critical care services, Jan Jones,
R.N., is all too familiar with the choices that family members are sometimes
forced to make.
"An advance directive is your life on your terms," Jones says.
"Whether you're 18 or 80, there’s a risk that an accident
or illness could affect your health. Documenting your wishes will make
it easier for family to do what they know their loved one wants done."
"We encourage everyone to talk with their family, friends, and doctor,"
Jordan says. "They should know their options, decide what’s
right for them, and then put it in writing. Legally communicating wishes
about end-of-life care will ensure that patients face the end of their
lives with dignity and with the same values by which they have lived."
Information and forms about advance health care directives are available
at the Southeast Georgia Health System Brunswick and Camden campuses.
In addition, the directive can be downloaded from the Health System website
at sghs.org/advancedirectives. For a copy of the Georgia Advance Directive
for Healthcare, go online at
www.aging.dhr.georgia.gov and click on Publications.
Once the advance health care directive is completed, individuals should
store the document in a safe and easily accessible place, and provide
copies to their physician, family and close friends.
For more information, please call the Risk Management Department at Southeast
Georgia Health System at 912-466-3261.