texas oncology more breakthroughs. more victories
Some of our cancer centers may have important notifications found on the location page. View More Important Notifications x

Advance Care Planning Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to your frequently asked questions about advance care planning.

Q: What is advance care planning?

Advance care planning is the process of learning about the choices you have in relation to our future medical care, and how you want to be treated if you are unable to speak for yourself.

These discussions can be very different, depending on your current health. The process includes:

Q: If I become too ill to communicate, how can I ensure decisions about my healthcare align with my wishes?

Your choices and wishes of how you want to be treated and cared for when you can no longer speak or make those decisions for yourself is some of the hardest work you must do. Talking with your physician and your family can give you perspective and valuable information. Several options exist for putting wishes for future medical care into writing. Learn more about understanding medical directives.

Q: Do I need to prepare a living will or medical power of attorney?

You are not required to prepare medical directives, which can include living wills and medical power of attorney, but it is the best way to state your intentions about how you want to be treated and cared for if you are unable to communicate your desires. Advance care planning helps your family and loved ones by decreasing the uncertainty, confusion, and conflict about your care. If you don’t name someone to be your healthcare advocate, the Texas Advance Directive Act dictates how decisions will be made with regard to your treatment and sustenance, and these may or may not reflect your intentions.

Q: I’ve documented my wishes, but what if I change my mind through the course of my life and/or illness?

You can change your instructions in medical directives any time. It is advisable to create a new form with your changed desires and discard the previous directive. Make a point to have discussions with your healthcare advocate about your future medical choices, including specifics about when and what medical treatment options you prefer. Be sure to inform your physician and your caregiving team if you change your medical directives.

Remember, the living will or advance directive to physicians will only be referred to when you are unable to communicate your own desires. If you are awake and able to say what you want, you are able to make your intentions known to your care team.

Q: Can someone speak for me if I am not able to communicate what I want for my care?

Yes, a medical power of attorney allows a designated person to speak on your behalf. The person you designate, known as your healthcare advocate, does not have to be a family member and becomes a surrogate for your medical care. It is important for your family and your healthcare advocate to be aware of your decisions and your medical directives. Having these documents completed before they become necessary is advantageous.

Q: How do I choose a healthcare advocate?

Perhaps one of the most important decisions to be made in the advance care planning process is choosing a healthcare advocate. This person is legally empowered to carry out healthcare wishes and decisions when the individual is no longer able to do so.

It’s vital that your healthcare advocate understand the quality of life that is important to you. A healthcare advocate may be a family member, close friend or someone else you trust to make decisions in accordance with your wishes.

Q: Do I need a lawyer to complete medical directive documents?

You do not have to have an attorney draft medical directive documents, and we can assist you. Most states have forms available to document future healthcare wishes. Upon completion of the forms, you simply need to sign them in front of a witness.

Q: Do doctors, nurses and hospitals have to follow my instructions?

Texas law requires health care professionals to follow your stated wishes. If a doctor, nurse, hospital or nursing facility is unable or unwilling to follow your written instructions, they must transfer you to a healthcare provider willing to abide by your instructions.

Q: How will my family know to engage palliative medicine or hospice care?

We closely engage with family members to give guidance about when palliative medicine or hospice care is needed. Palliative medicine aims to improve the quality of life and provide comfort for patients with serious illnesses. It includes the management of physical symptoms, as well as the psychological and spiritual challenges that come from coping with a life-threatening disease. Hospice care is designed to maintain a quality of life and comfort level for patients nearing the end of life. A coordinated hospice team including physicians, nurses, social workers, clergy, and volunteers care for patients and provides support for family members.