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Dying and death are universal aspects of the human experience. Yet, few Texas families have adequately discussed and planned their end-of-life care. Instead of waiting to make end-of-life decisions, the Texas Hospital Association seeks to normalize advance care planning and encourages Texas families to think about what matters most while we are living and translate those values into conversations and plans.

Advance care planning is a process of communication between individuals, families and others who are important to the discussion, as well as health care providers, to understand, discuss and plan future health care decisions, not only to lay preparations in the event that an individual loses decision-making capacity, but also to offer detailed instruction about values and wishes. ACP considers the “what ifs” that might occur across the entire lifespan.

THA joined number of public health and advance care planning advocates to co-sponsor Defining Hope, a documentary that follows eight patients with life-threatening illness and the nurses who guide them to make critical choices as they face death, embrace hope and ultimately redefine what makes life worth living. The film will be released in November 2017 in honor of National Hospice and Palliative Care Month.


Advance Directives

Take Charge of Your Health Care! Put Your Wishes in Writing.

An advance directive is your life on your terms. Whether you're 18 or 80, documenting your wishes today means your family won't have to make heart-wrenching decisions later.

Texas hospitals encourage you to know your options for accepting or refusing care. Decide what’s right for you. Talk with your family, friends and doctors. And then put it in writing.

Advance directives are  documents that state your choices for health care, or name someone to make those decisions, if you are unable to make your wishes known in the future because of illness or injury.

By putting your wishes in writing, you take the burden off your family and doctors for making those most difficult decisions.

Advances in medical technology can prolong life indefinitely for patients in comatose or vegetative states with no hope of recovery. The media is filled with highly publicized legal cases involving such patients whose families and medical providers disagree on their end-of-life care. These situations are emotionally and financially draining, and can be avoided by creating advance directives.

Even if you're young and healthy, it is never too soon to put your wishes in writing. No doubt, the middle of a medical crisis is the worst time to begin thinking about these critical questions, when your family is upset and you may be disoriented or in pain.

Texas hospitals encourage you to think through these issues, share your wishes with your loved ones, and put them in  writing while you are healthy.

Nearly a decade ago, the Texas Legislature passed the Texas Advance Directives Act, which clarifies the rights of adult patients to make important legal decisions about their health care in advance.

Texas law provides for four types of advance directives. You can create one or more, to meet your particular needs and wishes.

Key things to know:

  • Advance directives do not need to be notarized, only witnessed, signed and dated.
  • Two witnesses are required. Only one of them may be a family member or caregiver.
  • The lack of advance directives will not impact your access to care.
  • Having an advance directive will not affect insurance policies or premiums.
  • Advance directives executed in another state are valid in Texas.
  • If one advance directive conflicts with another, the later document supersedes.
  • Advance directives executed before Sept. 1, 1999, are still valid, but are governed by the law in effect when executed.
  • You can revoke an advance directive at any time.
  • The national Five Wishes program does not meet all of Texas’ legal requirements; it is best to document your desires using Texas forms.

All too often, hospitals see the emotional heartache when families struggle with making what they hope will be the "right" decisions for a loved one. If only the patient had put his/her desires in writing, the family wouldn't have to bear that burden.

Federal law requires hospitals to give adult patients information on advance directives. Be sure to let your family and doctors know if you have an advance directive.

For those adult patients admitted without advance directives, hospitals give information on the types of forms and will even help a patient execute documents, if needed. Remember, though, it's best to put your wishes in writing before a hospital stay – when you can consider these issues in a relaxed setting.

What Are My Options?

There are four types of advance directives. You can execute one, or several, depending on your needs and situation.

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