Care Decisions

patient and daughter discuss health care decisions

There are some important ways that you can prepare in advance of illness to ensure that your wishes are protected and fulfilled. One online resource, called The Conversation, is designed to help families start a conversation with loved ones about end-of-life care. Our Ethics Advisory Committee is always available for consultation with individuals and families facing patient care decisions.

Advance Directives

Advance Directives record your instructions and choices for receiving or withholding medical treatment. You will receive the same quality of health care whether or not you have completed this form. If you become unable to make decisions and you do not have advance directives in place, a family member or other person close to you may be asked to make decisions based on what they believe you would want. For patients under age 18, a parent or guardian usually makes these decisions. You may give your completed advance directive forms to your doctor, nurse, or admitting staff, and a copy can also be placed in your medical record.

Health Care Proxy

You may name another person to make decisions about your health care in the event you are unable. The person you designate may only do so if the doctor determines in writing that you are unable to make or communicate personal health care decisions. At that time your designee is entitled to information and records to help make decisions, including use of life-sustaining equipment, ventilators, respirators and dialysis, as well as the use of feeding or gastro tubes.

You may put limits on the decisions your designated health care agent may make on your behalf. For example you may specify the medical care you would or would not want. It's a good idea to discuss these matters with your doctor, with family members, and with the person you’ve named as your health care agent.

Massachusetts Health Care Proxy form

Living Will

The Living Will does not carry the same legal authority as a Health Care Proxy in the state of Massachusetts. 

A Living Will provides doctors, family members, and others close to a patient with written instructions describing the patient's views and choices about possible future medical treatment, including palliative care and organ donation.