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Preparing an Advance Medical Directive in NC

Advance Medical Directives

All of us hope that we will remain healthy enough mentally and physically to take care of ourselves and make sound decisions until the end of our lives. But that does not always happen. An advance health care directive is a witnessed legal document that provides written instructions about your health care wishes if you become incapacitated and are unable to speak for yourself. There are multiple types of advance medical directives used in North Carolina.

All adults should consider having advance care directives. Anyone can suffer a catastrophic injury in a car accident or fall, changing life in a split second. An advance care directive can provide comfort to your loved ones in a stressful situation. If you do not have an advance medical directive or a living will, your family and your medical team may not know your medical care preferences if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. It is helpful to talk with an experienced elder care attorney about advance health care directives. A knowledgeable attorney can help you work through the process of advance care planning and document your treatment preferences so that your family and physicians will know your wishes.

What is an Example of an Advance Medical Directive

A living will is one example of an advance medical directive. A living will may specify whether you would want to be kept alive on a feeding tube, placed on a mechanical ventilator and what life-prolonging, extraordinary measures you would not want doctors to perform to extend your life. It can be a useful resource for your medical team and prevent disputes among family members about what care to provide a loved one. A living will is a different document than a will that disperses an individual’s property after death.

An advance medical directive is not activated unless you cannot speak for yourself. It is a powerful tool that speaks for you if you are incapacitated because of a medical condition or infirmity.

Types of Advance Medical Directives

End-of-life medical care decisions can be wrenching for families. An advance directive can ease some of your loved ones’ burden if they face that situation. You can communicate your wishes regarding the type of care you want to receive and who should make decisions for you if you cannot speak for yourself through advance health care directives.

  • A health care power of attorney—An advance care directive can be used to name a person you trust to be your proxy or agent and make medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated or unable to act on your own behalf. You can name as your health care power of attorney any competent person 18 years or older other than the doctor or health care professional who is overseeing your care. This legal document creating a durable health care power of attorney can be technically complicated, so it is helpful to consult with a lawyer who has experience with elder care issues and advance care directives. The person who is named as health care power of attorney has authority to make end-of-life decisions for you.
  • A living will—A living will is a written, legal document stating that you do not wish to have your life prolonged by the use of extraordinary medical measures if you are in a vegetative state or have a terminal disease or condition. Another name for a living will is a declaration of a desire for a natural death.
  • An advance instruction for mental health treatment—This legal document allows you to make decisions in advance, giving your instructions and preferences regarding certain types of mental health care. It may outline your consent or refusal of mental health treatment if you should become incapable of speaking for yourself.
  • A declaration of an anatomical gift—Through an advance directive, anyone 18 or older may state his or her intent to donate organs or tissues for transplant or donate his or her body for medical research and education after death. Organ donation can be a difficult decision for a family to make regarding a loved one. But you can take the burden off your family by expressing your preferences in a declaration of an anatomical gift. By North Carolina law, all hospitals in North Carolina must notify the appropriate organ and tissue recovery agencies when an organ donor has passed away or is near death.

Advance medical directives are legal documents that have certain requirements including the requirement to be witnessed. Before you write an advance health care directive, it is helpful to think about your values and feelings about quality of life.  Are there certain situations that seem worse than death? If so, it is important that health care providers are aware of your wishes.

When you make carefully thought out decisions about your end-of-life treatment and wishes, you take the stress off your loved ones if they ever find themselves having to make those decisions for you. They will not have to guess what you would have done.

Contact a Raleigh Advance Care Planning Attorney

An elder care attorney at Brady Cobin Law Group, PLLC can talk with you about your values and health care goals and help you work through the process of advance care planning. We can craft an advance care directive that honors your values and details your end-of-life treatment preferences.

For more than 35 years, our dedicated Raleigh elder care attorneys have helped individuals and families throughout North Carolina focus on the big picture and address advance care planning and end-of-life treatment issues. Our law practice at Brady Cobin Law Group is focused on elder law and estate planning. Our compassion for our clients drives the legal representation we provide to honor clients’ lives, values and charitable interests.

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