Making Medical Decisions | Torrance Memorial

Advance Care Planning

The experts at Torrance Memorial provide patients and families who are coping with serious illness with comprehensive advance care planning resources and assistance.

What is Advance Care Planning?

Advance care planning allows you to plan for and make decisions about your future healthcare while sharing your goals and preferences with your physicians and loved ones. It also enables you to learn about the types of care decisions that might be required at a later date, so you can consider your care options in advance.

After you consider your options, you can let your family members and healthcare providers know about your preferences using legal documents that only take effect if you are unable to speak for yourself. You can designate who will speak for you if you are too ill to speak for yourself and indicate your wishes about what types of healthcare you would like to receive.

What are the Benefits of Advance Care Planning?

Although many people mistakenly assume that advance care planning is only for people who are elderly or dying, the truth is that it is beneficial for everyone — including healthy, younger adults. Even if you aren’t sick, advance care planning allows you to make decisions about your healthcare now, in case you become too ill to express your wishes later.

If you are living with a serious illness, advance care planning helps you understand your options so you can make informed decisions that may provide you with a sense of control and comfort. It may also reduce worry, fear, and anxiety about what will happen if you are no longer able to speak for yourself.

Advance care planning also benefits caregivers. Not only does it help them understand your wishes in advance and prepare accordingly, but it also outlines your wishes in writing — clearly and legally — which can prevent future conflict between family members and healthcare providers.

What is an Advance Healthcare Directive?

An Advance Healthcare Directive is a legal document that only becomes effective if you are unable to speak for yourself or become unable to make your own treatment decisions. Through an Advance Healthcare Directive, you can designate someone to speak on your behalf and determine which treatments you want or do not want.

In California, the part of an Advance Directive used to appoint a person to make healthcare decisions for you is called a Power of Attorney for Healthcare. The part where you can express your wishes for future medical treatment is called an Individual Healthcare Instruction. As long as you are over the age of 18 and capable of making your own medical decisions, you can complete an Advance Healthcare Directive. You do not need a lawyer.

You can use the form below to choose someone to speak for you — also called a healthcare agent — and indicate your wishes for medical treatment. Once your Advance Directive has been properly signed and witnessed, give copies to your healthcare representative, physician, and hospital during pre-registration.

Need help or more information about Advance Directives?

If you need additional assistance with completing an Advance Healthcare Directive or if you have questions, Torrance Memorial care team members are here for you. You can access our advance care planning services by:

What is POLST?

The Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) is a medical order signed by a patient and his or her healthcare providers — including a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant — that specifies the types of end-of-life medical treatment the patient wishes to receive. This form is included in the patient’s medical chart. It helps to reduce patient and family suffering by ensuring that the patient’s wishes are honored by his or her healthcare providers. It also prevents unwanted and ineffective medical treatment.

If you are living with a serious illness, our skilled team of palliative care professionals can help you decide if POLST is the right choice for you. You can also talk to your physician about POLST, or visit POLST California for additional information and resources. Click on the link below to download the form.

Bioethics Committee

Today, health care decisions can seem very complex. Advances in medical technology have given us many choices, and sometimes the decisions we face are difficult to make. The people involved in your care may even disagree over what steps to take. Torrance Memorial’s Bioethics Committee can help. It offers special expertise and experience in medical ethics. Whenever the Ethics Committee gets involved, it does so with respect to patients’ rights, family privacy and the personal nature of health care decisions.

If you believe you would benefit from the Bioethics Committee’s input, please ask your nurse to arrange for it. Or, on weekdays, between 8am and 5pm, contact the Medical Staff Services Department at 310-325-9110, ext. 2167.

Additional Resources

Advance Care Planning

Prepare for Your Care

Offers a step-by-step program with video on advance care planning and completing an Advance Healthcare Directive. This site also has free materials and tools to help you get started.

California Advance Healthcare Directive

Advance Healthcare Directives come in different types or versions, but they are legal forms. Make sure that you complete one that is compliant with the state you live in. Here is one example:

California PREPARE Advance Directive

Coalition for Compassionate Care of California (CCCC)

From educational tools and resources to public policy, CCCC is a leader in advancing the philosophy of advance care planning and end of life care. Their website offers simple materials geared towards patients/families and providers while both sides navigate through difficult conversations and health situations.

5 Wishes

5 Wishes is another advance care planning tool that can help facilitate discussions and documenting your important healthcare choices.

POLST & Decision Aids

POLST for Patients & Loved Ones (Guide)

This link will lead you to a guide on further understanding what POLST is and why it is important.

POLST Forms in Other Languages

Although the POLST form is available in different languages, an individual interested in completing this form must sign the final document in English version.

Decision Aids

Decisions Aids are tools created to simplify information for those making important decisions about life-sustaining treatments. It is always recommended to discuss your specific healthcare needs with your doctor.

End of Life Option Act (EOLOA)

The End of Life Option Act is a California law that allows terminally ill adult patients with capacity to make medical decisions to be prescribed an aid-in-dying medication (if certain conditions are met). For more information, please visit the website below or talk to your doctor.

Key Facts About the End of Life Option Act for Patients & Families

Need help with Advance Care Planning?

Contact a member of our Palliative Care team to answer any questions about advance care planning. 


Related Events

  • Aug
    5:30 PM - 6:30 PM
    This workshop is designed to help you and your loved ones prepare to make healthcare decisions in the future and in times of uncertainty.