Your rights to decide about your healthcare
Dear Friend of Beebe,
Thank you for your interest in Beebe Healthcare’s policy on Advanced Health Care Directives. As you may know, Delaware passed the “Death with Dignity Act” in December of 1991. It was amended as the “Health Care Decisions Act” in June of 1996 to better reflect the needs expressed by healthcare providers, potential patients, and clergy. Basically, there are two types of Advanced Directives in Delaware: End of Life Decisions (formerly known as the Living Will) and Power of Attorney for Health Care. Beebe Healthcare has had formal policies on Advanced Directives since 1991 and they are available for you to review.
Because medical decision-making is such a personal matter, and because many states have varying laws regarding the topic, many aspects are still a matter of legal interpretation. Beebe encourages you to learn as much about Advanced Directives as possible. There are two state resources available, the Division of Aging at 800-223-9074, (302) 391-3505 or DelawareADRC@state.de.us. You may also consult your personal attorney.
If you have a question about our policy or would like assistance completing your Advanced Directive, contact the Beebe Patient Advocate at 302-645-3547. When you have completed this document, we ask that you make additional copies for your physicians, family members, clergy, etc.
We applaud you for taking the initiative to become educated about Advance Directives. At Beebe Healthcare we believe that our best patient is an informed patient.
About Advance Healthcare Directives
As a competent adult, you have the legal right to make your own healthcare decisions. Your doctor or another healthcare professional advise you and make recommendations about treatment. You have the right to receive this information in a way you can understand. You have the authority to say “yes” to any treatment that is offered to you, and to say “no” to any treatment that you do not want.
In Delaware, if you are at least 18 years old you may make a written “Advance Health Care Directive” to accept or refuse most health care treatments or procedures. Your Advance Health Care Directive will tell your doctor what you want if you become unable to decide yourself.
Under Delaware law there are two types of Advance Health Care Directives:
1) Instruction for Health Care Decisions (Living Will)
2) A Power of Attorney for Health Care
An Instruction for Health Care Decisions, previously referred to as a living will, is a written statement of your wishes about healthcare treatment. It includes your wishes for treatment when you are terminally ill, permanently unconscious or suffer from serious illness or frailty.
A Power of Attorney for Health Care allows you to name another person as an agent to make healthcare decisions for you if your medical condition makes you unable to do so. You can appoint any adult over the age of 18 to be your agent. However, if you are a resident of a long-term care facility, the agent cannot be an employee of the facility unless he/she is related to you.
If you want to initiate an Advance Health Care Directive, you must do so while you are still capable and competent to make healthcare decisions. Two witnesses who are at least 18 years old must watch you sign the Advance Health Care Directive. You must choose witnesses who are not members of your family, will not inherit anything from you when you die, and do not have to pay for your care. If you are in a hospital, nursing home or similar facility when you sign your written instruction, you must choose witnesses who are not employees of the facility. In addition, if you are in a nursing home or similar facility, one of the witnesses must be a Long-Term Care Ombudsman or the Public Guardian. If you do not have an Advance Health Care Directive and you are unable to make decisions, a member of your family will be asked to make healthcare choices for you.
Delaware law provides that life-sustaining procedures cannot be withheld or withdrawn from a pregnant patient, so long as it is probable that the child will develop to the point of live birth with the application of life-sustaining treatment.
You should keep the original and give copies to your family members, your doctor, and other healthcare providers. It will become part of your medical record. If you want, you can also give copies to close friends, your lawyer, or your clergyman.
You can revoke your Advance Health Care Directive at any time by destroying it, by making a new one, or by telling two people at the same time that you no longer wish your Advance Health Care Directive to be effective. You should also, in writing, inform your doctor or any other healthcare provider and any health agent you have named of your decision to revoke the directive.
State laws vary considerably on Advance Health Care Directives. While the Advance Health Care Directive you make in one state may be good in another state, there is no guarantee of that. If you move to another state, you should make a new Advance Health Care Directive in that state. If you have a valid Advance Health Care Directive from another state, it will be valid in Delaware to the extent it is consistent with Delaware law.
You are not required to make an Advance Health Care Directive. However, without an Advance Health Care Directive, a member of your family, who may be referred to as a surrogate, will be asked to make healthcare decisions for you. The following family members, if available, will be asked in this order:
1) The spouse (husband or wife), unless a petition for divorce has been filed; or unless the patient has filed a petition or complaints alleging abuse;
2) The adult child;
3) A parent;
4) An adult brother or sister;
5) An adult grandchild;
6) An adult niece or nephew;
7) An adult aunt or uncle.
If none of these family members are available to make health decisions for you, a close friend who is willing to become involved with your healthcare, who has maintained regular contact with you, and is familiar with your activities, health, personal values, and morals may make decisions by executing and presenting to the healthcare provider an affidavit attesting to the above.
If no qualifying close friend is available, a guardian may be appointed by the Court.