Advanced Directives

The State of New Jersey, Hackensack Meridian Pascack Valley and the professionals who provide your care consider health care planning very important. For that reason, every patient is asked about and encouraged to prepare an advance directive.


What is an Advanced Directive?


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You have a right to understandable information about your condition and its likely course, your treatment choices and their benefits and risks, and your physicians’ recommendations. You have the right to accept or refuse any appropriate test or treatment. Most patients are able to make these decisions after discussion with their physicians and family or other trusted advisors.

What happens to your rights to make healthcare decisions if you become temporarily or permanently unable to consider and communicate your values and wishes? You may decide in advance what treatments you would or would not want and put those wishes in writing, or you may name someone else a trusted person who knows what is important to you to make the healthcare decision for you. This legal document is called an advance directive.

Under New Jersey law, there are three kinds of advance directives: an appointment directive, which appoints a person (healthcare representative) and an alternate representative to make healthcare decisions when you are not able to do so. This is sometimes called a healthcare proxy or a power of attorney for healthcare. An instruction directive, which states your treatment wishes and/or instructions. This is sometimes called a living will; and a combined directive, which appoints a healthcare representative and states your treatment instructions.

Everyone over the age of 18 who understands the purpose of healthcare planning and can make treatment decisions should prepare an advance directive. The benefits of having an advance directive are:

  • Giving a trusted person the same decision-making authority that you would have, including the ability to talk with your care team, understand your medical condition as it changes, and make the decisions you would make if you were able; and
  • Providing your doctor and other caregivers, as well as your family, with guidance about your healthcare goals and the treatment you would and would not want in different circumstances.

Advance directives are not about dying or about being old or sick. They are about being responsible. Young, healthy people also suffer illnesses and injuries that leave them temporarily or permanently unable to consider or communicate their treatment choices.

Federal and state law require care-providing institutions to ask all patients on admission whether they have advance directives, and if they do not, whether they would like help in preparing one. Now, when you are healthy, relaxed, and able to think clearly, is the best time to prepare an advance directive.

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