When you or your loved one needs medical care, you want the most appropriate and best care available. To achieve this, certain decisions may need to be made involving the kind of care given. As a patient in a Texas hospital, you have certain legal rights concerning your medical treatment.
Every adult of sound mind has the right to decide what may be done to his or her body in the course of medical treatment. As a patient, you have the right to be told about the nature of your condition, the general nature of the proposed treatment, and alternative procedures that are available.
This information helps you make an informed and rational decision, either accepting or declining a proposed course of treatment. Your physician will discuss with you the risks associated with medical procedures identified under state laws.
Texas law allows you to make an advance directive concerning your medical care. That is, you may make your wish concerning medical treatment known before you actually need such care. The Texas Natural Death Act authorizes you to create a Directive to Physicians.
Medical Directive(s) to Physician
You may sign a Directive to Physicians concerning your care if:
- You are at least 18 years old
- Of sound mind, and
- Acting on your own free will in the presence of two qualified witnesses.
The directive instructs your physician not to use artificial methods to prolong the process of dying if you are terminally ill.
The directive does not become effective until you are diagnosed and certified in writing to have a terminal condition.
If you sign a directive, talk it over with your physician and ensure that is included in your medical record.
Example of a Directive to Physician (.pdf file format)
You may make an oral directive if you are diagnosed with a terminal condition and are unable to sign a written directive.
Directive by Guardian or Family Member
Should you become comatose or otherwise unable to communicate after being diagnosed with a terminal condition, and if you have not issued a written directive, your attending physician and legal guardian, or certain family members in the absence of a legal guardian, can make decisions concerning withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment.
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
The other type of advance directive is known as a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. This document, signed by a competent adult, designates someone you trust as an agent to make health care decisions on your behalf should you become unable to make such decisions.
Example of a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (.pdf file format)
Anyone can be your agent other than:
- Your health care provider, including a physician, hospital or nursing home.
- An employee of your health care provider, unless that person is a relative.
- Your residential care provider (nursing home, hospice, or other licensed residential care home).
- An employee of your residential care provider, unless that person is related to you.
Authority of Agent
An agent has authority to make health care decisions on your behalf only when your attending physician certifies in writing, based on your physician's reasonable medical judgment, that you lack the capacity to make health care decisions. This certification must be filed in your medical record.
Your agent cannot make a health care decision if you object regardless of whether you have the capacity to make the healthcare decision yourself, or whether a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is in effect. An agent who has your Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care has certain duties.
Agents must make health care decisions:
- After consultation with your attending physician and according to the agent's knowledge of your wishes, to include your religious and moral beliefs.
- If your agent does not know your wishes, health care decisions must be made in accordance with what the agent believes is in your best interests.
Your agent may consent, refuse to consent, or withdraw consent of medical treatment and make decisions about withdrawing or withholding life sustaining treatment. However, your agent may not consent to voluntary inpatient mental health services, convulsive treatment, psychosurgery, abortion, or neglect through omission of care intended to provide comfort.
Your physician must comply with your agent's instructions or allow you to be transferred to another physician.
Legal Aspects of Advance Directives
Neither the Directive to Physicians nor the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care needs to be notarized in order to be a legally valid expression of your desires.
Neither this hospital nor your physician may require you to execute a Directive to Physicians under the Texas Natural Death Act or a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care as a condition for admittance or receiving treatment in this or any other hospital.
The fact that you have executed a Directive to Physicians or a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care does not change any provision in any of your insurance policies.
Communicate Your Health Care Choices
If you decide to execute an Advance Medical Directive:
- Keep your original at home.
- Provide copies of your directives to any family member or agent who may be called upon to act for you.
- Ensure a copy is placed in your Outpatient Medical Record.
- Bring a copy to the hospital every time you are admitted.
- Inform the admitting clerk, ward nurse and physician that you have these documents.
Individuals needing help formulating such instruments should contact the appropriate Legal Assistance office of their servicing Staff Judge Advocate at the numbers listed below and request the assistance of an attorney.
- 1st Cavalry Division: 287-6060 (Division HQ Building 28000, Room 1155)
- 4th Infantry Division: 287-1850 (Division HQ, Building 410, room 175)
- III Corps, Tenant Activities, & Retirees: 287-7901 (Corps HQ, Building 1001, Room C224)
Hospital Policies for Implementing Patient's Rights
Formal policies have been adopted to assure that your right to make medical treatment decisions will be honored to the extent permitted by law.
This hospital has adopted policies relating to in-formed consent, implementation of Directives to Physicians under the Texas Natural Death Act and implementation of treatment decisions made by your agent appointed under a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.
For more information about any of these policies, contact a member of your healthcare team, or call the Patient Administration Division at Darnall Medical Center, 254-288-8171 or 254-288-8172.
page last modified on: 5/21/2013