Legal & Ethical Decisions
Making Informed Choices for Your Care
Before your stay at MetroWest Medical Center you may wish to prepare a few documents in advance that will help with future health care decisions. We always value your rights and want to keep you informed every step of the way.
The Role of Our Ethics Committee
When a health care choice also involves an ethical concern — such as a family member’s wish to refuse life-sustaining treatment, or a disagreement between family members or other caregivers concerning advance directives — decision-making can become overwhelming. At MetroWest Medical Center, we have an Ethics Committee available to hear such concerns and work on your behalf. You, a family member or a member of your care team may make requests for a consultation.
You have the right to formulate an advance directive, also known as a living will, that indicates your treatment wishes should you become incapacitated. An advance directive is a binding legal document that tells your doctor and your family about the types of life support you want to be provided or withheld in case you’re no longer able to make decisions for yourself.
If you would like more information about an advance directive, please consult your doctor, your nurse, the Admitting Department or one of our clinical social workers. Below are some examples of advanced directives.
Health Care Proxy
In Massachusetts, if you are at least 18 years old and competent, you have the right to name a person to make medical treatment decisions for you by completing a health care proxy form, which allows you to choose a health care agent. A health care agent is allowed to make health care decisions for you, but only after two doctors have agreed that you’re no longer able to make your own health care decisions.
Information about assigning a health care proxy will be in the admitting packet you receive when registering at the hospital. You should be aware that in Massachusetts, the health care proxy is the only legally recognized advanced medical directive. If you have concerns about how to complete the form, please contact our social work/continuum of care department at ext. 1370.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney is a document that names your health care proxy. Once written, it should be signed, witnessed, notarized, copied and put into your medical record. You may want to appoint someone to manage your financial affairs when you cannot. A durable power of attorney for finances is a separate legal form from durable power of attorney. You may choose the same person for both, or choose different people to represent you.
A living will is a set of instructions documenting your wishes about life-sustaining medical care. It is used if you become terminally ill, incapacitated or unable to communicate or make decisions. A living will protects your rights to accept or refuse medical care and removes the burden for making decision from your family, friends and medical team.
If you have other questions, feel free to call us at Framingham Union Hospital at (508) 383-1000 or Leonard Morse Hospital at (508) 650-7000.