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The Patient Self-Determination Act of 1990

A federal law, The Patient Self-Determination Act of 1990, requires health care providers to advise individuals as they are admitted to a health care institution or program of their right to accept or reject medical treatment and their right to make advance directives or written instructions about their choices of treatment in case they should become incapacitated.

In summary, decisions to accept or reject life-sustaining treatments must be made voluntarily by a competent and informed patient, or, if the patient is incapacitated, by another appropriately informed individual acting on the patient’s behalf. This individual could be a family member, legal guardian or a friend who has been granted durable power of attorney for health care decisions by the patient.

It is an excellent idea to tell your family and doctor(s) about your wishes for life-sustaining treatments and choices of care. You also may wish to complete an advance directive, such as a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and/or a “Living Will.”

The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERD) of the Catholic Church give guidance for Catholic health care providers and facilities to administer medical treatment for the benefit and dignity of the patient in keeping with the teachings of the Catholic faith. Information in this pamphlet is consistent with the Ethical and Religious Directives.