Legal & Ethical Decisions

As a patient seeking medical care at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital and Medical Center, you have the right to participate in legal and ethical decisions about that care. Advance directives are designed for the specific purpose of helping you plan for what will happen in the event that you’re not able to speak for yourself. Federal law requires our hospital to share this information with you. This law is intended to increase your input and control over medical treatment decisions.

Creating an advance directive

When people become too sick to make their own medical decisions, someone else must step in to decide the course of treatment — when to start or stop it, and when to change it. Family members and doctors are typically the ones to make these tough decisions when the patient is not able.

Family members have good intentions. But, sometimes, they may not be sure what’s best — and they may disagree among themselves. That’s why it’s good for them to know in advance what you would want, as well as the person you think is the best one to make healthcare decisions. It will help your family, close friends and physicians if you’ve filled out an advance directive form. Having one in place empowers you. If you’ve made your wishes clear, they’re likely to be followed.

Common questions (and answers) about advance directives

As the patient, am I required to fill out any forms?

Filling out a form is not a requirement. You can simply discuss your options with your family and ask your doctors to record your decisions on your medical chart. But it’s a very good idea to fill out an advance directive form. That way, your treatment wishes will be clear and more likely to be followed.

Will I still be treated if I don’t fill out an advance directive form?

You still will receive medical treatment. We just want you to know that if you become too sick to make decisions, family members or another person will have to make them for you.

Under California law, one type of advance directive lets you name a person to make healthcare decisions when you can’t. It’s called a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare. With a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, the person you choose can make most medical decisions — not just those that involve life-sustaining treatment — when you can’t speak for yourself. In addition to naming that person, you can use the form to communicate when you would and would not want particular types of treatment.

If you don’t have someone you can name to make these decisions, you can sign a Natural Death Act Declaration. This declaration says that you do not want life-prolonging treatment if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious.

Who makes the decision about my treatment?

Your doctor will give you information and advice about treatment. But the decisions are yours to make. You can approve treatments you want. You can say “no” to those you do not want — even if the proposed treatments might keep you alive longer.

Your doctor must inform you completely and candidly about your medical condition and about what your treatment options can do for you. Many treatments have “side effects.” Your doctor must offer you information about any serious problems that medical treatment options could cause you.

It’s possible for people to have different ideas about which treatment option is best for you. Your doctor can give you all the information on treatments available to you, but can’t choose for you. That choice is up to you.

How can I get more information about advance directives?

Your doctor, nurse or social worker should be able to provide this information.