Sometimes people are unable to make their own health care decisions. Before that happens to you, you can:
- Fill out a written form to give someone the right to make health care decisions for you.
- Give your doctors written instructions about how you want them to handle your health care if you become unable to make decisions for yourself.
The legal documents you can use to give your directions are called “advance directives”. The documents are a way for you to communicate your wishes to family, friends and health care providers. It allows you to express your healthcare wishes in writing in case you cannot do so if you are seriously sick or injured.
There are two types of advance directives in New Hampshire:
- Living Will – A document that tells your healthcare provider whether to give life- sustaining treatment if you are near death or are permanently unconscious without hope of recovery.
- Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare – A document in which you name someone to make health care decisions, including decisions about life support, if you can no longer speak for yourself. This person is your healthcare “agent” and may also carry out the wishes you described in your “Living Will.”
If you want to create an advance directive:
- Get the form from your doctor, your lawyer, a legal services agency, or a social worker.
- Fill out and sign the form. Remember, this is a legal document. You may want to have a lawyer help you fill out the form.
- Give copies to people who need to know about it, including your doctor and the person you name as your agent. You may also want to give copies to close friends or family members.
- Be sure to keep a copy at home.
- If you are going to be hospitalized, take a copy of it to the hospital. The hospital will ask you whether you have signed an advance directive form and whether you have it with you. If you have not signed an advance directive form, the hospital will have forms available and may ask if you want to sign one.
If you have signed an advance directive, and you believe that a doctor or hospital did not follow the instructions in it, you may file a complaint with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services Ombudsman who can refer you to the appropriate agency or party.
Remember, it is your choice to fill out an advance directive (including whether you want to sign one if you are in the hospital). You can change your mind and these documents at any time. We can help you understand or get these documents. According to law, no one can deny you care or discriminate against you based on whether or not you have signed an Advance Directive. The only purpose is to let others know what you want if you can’t speak for yourself.
Talk to your primary care provider or call Member Services at 1-833-704-1177 (TTY 1-855-534-6730) if you have any questions about advance directives.