What if I'm too sick to decide?
If you can't make treatment decisions, your doctor will ask your closest available relative or friend to help decide what is best for you. Occasionally there will be disagreement about what course to take. That's why it is helpful if you say in advance what you want to happen if you can't speak for yourself. There are several "advance directives" you can use to indicate preferences or designate who you'd like to speak on your behalf. One kind of advance directive under California law lets you name someone to make healthcare decisions when you can't. This form is called an Advance Health care Directive.
Who can fill out this form?
You can if you are 18 years or older and of sound mind. You do not need a lawyer to fill it out.
Who can I name to make medical treatment decisions when I'm not able to do so?
You can choose an adult relative or friend you trust as your "agent" to speak for you if you're too sick to make your own decisions.
How does this person know what I want?
After you choose someone, talk to that person about what you want. You can also write down in the "Advance Health Care Directive" when you would or wouldn't want medical treatment. Talk to your doctor about what you want and give your doctor a copy of the form. Give another copy to the person named as your agent. And take a copy with you when you go into a hospital or other treatment facility. Sometimes treatment decisions are hard to make and it truly helps your family and your doctor if they know what you want. The "Advance Health Care Directive" also gives them legal protection when they follow your wishes.
What if I don't have anybody to make decisions for me?
You can use another kind of advance directive to write down your wishes about treatment. This is often called a "Living Will" because it takes effect while you are still alive but have become unable to speak for yourself. "The California Natural Death Act" lets you sign a living will, called a Declaration. Anyone 18 years or older and of sound mind can sign one. When you sign a Declaration it tells your doctors that you don't want any treatment that would only prolong your dying. All life-sustaining treatment would be stopped if you were terminally ill and your death was expected soon, or if you were permanently unconscious. You would still receive treatment to keep you comfortable.
The doctors must follow your wishes about limiting treatment, or turn your care over to another doctor who will. Your doctors are also legally protected when they follow your wishes.