Advance Directive Policy

Northwest Medical Center supports a patient's right to participate in decisions by encouraging patients to communicate their preference in healthcare decision making with the presence of an Advance Directive or Living Will Declaration. Such communication will guide others in decisions by knowing your wishes if you become incapacitated.

Each patient is provided information regarding Advance Directives. If a patient desires to formulate an Advance Directive, a packet of information may be obtained from the Social Services Department by calling 205-487-7798. The medical center will not condition the provision of medical care or otherwise discriminate against an individual based on whether or not the individual has executed an advance directive.

Deciding About Your Health Care

If you are 19 years of age or older, the law says you have the right to decide about your medical care. If you are very sick or badly hurt, you may not be able to say what medical care you want. If you have an advance directive, your doctor or family will know what medical care you want if you are too sick or hurt to talk or make decisions. 

What is an advance directive?

An advance directive explains the kind of medical care you want if you are too sick or hurt to talk or make decisions. The advance directive is put into place before you are terminally ill or injured, when a medical doctor determines that you have a condition that cannot be cured and that you will likely die in the near future from this condition. If you do not have an advance directive, certain members of your family will have to decide on your care.

Types of Advance Directives

In the state of Alabama, there are two types of advance directives. They are:

  • Living Will - This form is used to make your wishes known about what medical treatment or other care you would or would not want.
  • Appointment of a Health Care Proxy - You may appoint someone to speak on your behalf regarding health care decisions. This may be declared in a separate document or as part of a living will.
  • Appointment of a durable power of attorney - you may appoint a person who is specifically authorized to make decisions regarding the providing, withholding, or withdrawing of life-sustaining treatment or artificially provided nutrition and hydrations in instances involving terminal illness/injury.

Talk with Your Doctor and Family Now

The law says doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes must do what you want or send you to another place that will. Before you set up an advance directive, talk with your doctor ahead of time. Find out if your doctor is willing to go along with your wishes. If your doctor does not feel he or she can carry out your wishes, you can go to another doctor, hospital or nursing home.

Once you decide on the care you want to receive if you become incapacitated, explain why you want the care you have decided on. Find out if they are willing to let your wishes be carried out.

To Initiate an Advance Directive

Before you set up an advance directive, talk with your doctor to ensure he/she is willing to go along with your wishes. Talk with your family and explain why you have decided on the care you want and help them understand how you have made this decision.

An Advance Directive will be: 

1    in writing;
2.    signed by the person making the advance directive
3.    dated and
4.    signed in the presence of two or more witnesses who are at least 19 years of age, neither of whom
       shall be the person who signed the advance directive for health care.

Your Responsibility if you have an Advance Directive:

If you have an advance directive, we will ask you to provide a copy of the advance directive to the person who admits you to the hospital. The provision of the document is to provide access to your wishes should the circumstances arise to need this information.

You Can Change Your Mind at Any Time

As long as you can speak for yourself, you can change your mind at anytime about what you have written down. If you make changes, tear up your old papers and give copies of any new forms or changes to everyone who need to know.

ALA Code § 22-8A-4 : Alabama Code – Section 22-8A-4 Advance Directive for Health Care