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Hospital stays: what is a personne de confiance?

Patients who go into hospital for an extended stay are always asked if they have named a personne de confiance. What does it mean?

If they have not already done so – it can be completed at any time – they will be asked if they wish to designate one for the time they are in hospital. This is not an obligation but it is recommended, especially in the case of serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses.

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What is a personne de confiance?

This person can help you with healthcare decisions and you may ask for them to be present at meetings with your doctors. Should you be unable to express your wishes, they will be consulted by doctors. What they say will be prioritised above anyone else. They may receive medical infor­mation in your place and be your spokesperson. 

They may also ask questions they think you would like answered and relay the replies to you. Where stopping treatment or starting deep, end-of-life sedation is considered, they must be consulted. They may also ask that medical staff consider such action if they think you would want it.

Draw up a Living Will

Obviously, it is important to explain your wishes to them and if you have drawn up a Living Will (directive anticipée) concerning end-of-life wishes, such as whether or not you would want to be kept alive at all costs, you should give them a copy. Any adult may name a personne de confiance. The usual choice is a spouse but it could be an adult child, parent, friend or GP. People do have the right to refuse the role.

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You may designate them on a signed, dated paper, with your full name and the name of the person, including their contact details. This may be included in directives anticipées if you wish. The person should sign it. You may also do it verbally, in front of two witnesses who attest to it in writing. You can change the designated person in a new document, destroying the old one, and informing the previous person. 

It is advisable to keep a copy of the document in your medical records with your GP and/or hospital or retirement home. You can also keep it with you. If you have one, the name may be recorded in your online dossier médical partagé. Examples of documents designating the person, in an ordinary version and the verbal one involving witnesses, can be found here.

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