New Jersey hospitals and nursing homes are required by law to ask each patient upon admission whether he/she has an advance directive, more commonly known as a living will.
This law is in compliance with the federal Patient Self-Determination Act (PSDA) of 1990. The PSDA was designed to recognize the right of each individual to request or deny life-sustaining treatment, such as respirators and feeding tubes. An advance directive is a legally recognized document that clearly states a person's preferences for medical treatment in life-sustaining matters. It "speaks" for the patient if he/she becomes incapable of making or voicing health care decisions in accepting or refusing treatment. Individuals do not need an attorney or physician to complete a living will, but two adults, or one attorney or notary public, should be present as witnesses when the document is signed. Hospital staff may not serve as witnesses.
The law requires that health care institutions make routine inquiries concerning the existence and location of an advance directive, provide informational materials to patients, their families and health care representatives, and assist patients interested in discussing and executing an advance directive. If patients do not bring an advance directive to the hospital, they can tell a nurse their intent, and it will be documented in their charts. For more information on advance directives, call Social Services at (973) 831-5177.