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Patient Self-Determination Act

The Patient Self-Determination Act of 1990 created a set of rules about a patient’s right to refuse life-sustaining treatment. 

This Congressional act encourages individuals to plan for the possibility of becoming seriously ill or injured in the future and not being able to specify their treatment preferences at that time, by:

  • Stating in writing their desires about possible life-sustaining medical treatment 
  • Naming a “health care agent” to make health care decisions for them if they are incapacitated

In Massachusetts, a health care agent is appointed using a health care proxy form

Another goal of the Patient Self-Determination Act is to encourage health care professionals to honor a patient’s written preferences about medical treatments when such instructions exist.