This information will help you understand a federal law called the Patient Self-Determination Act. All hospitals and other health care institutions must inform patients of their right to agree to or refuse medical treatment. In addition, patients must be asked if they have an advance directive.
If you are 18 or older and mentally competent, you have the right to make decisions about your medical treatment. If you want to control decisions about your health care, even if you become unable to make or to express them yourself, you will need an advance directive.
An advance directive is a form you sign now to direct your future health care if you cannot speak for yourself in the future. “Advance” means you tell your wishes ahead of time before you are too sick to talk. “Directives” means you direct your future health care. In this form, you state your wishes about what happens to you when you are dying or are in a coma and unable to speak. You decide if you want artificial treatments, which may keep you alive for a very long time.