Your Life – Your Choice Advance Planning for Important Health Care Decisions
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 treatments.
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.