Who Will Make Medical Decisions for You if You Can’t?

A Health Care Power of Attorney and an Advance Directive for a Natural Death, also known as a living will, are written documents that ensure that an agent can make health care decisions on your behalf, even if you are incapacitated or otherwise unable to communicate for yourself. This combination of these legal documents and a set of written instructions stating your medical preferences protects your right to any medical decisions you made when you could advocate for yourself. It also ensures your family and friends know what to do in the event of a serious health crisis.

Our experienced attorneys at Brady Cobin Law Group explain the details of these directives and how they help you choose who makes medical decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself.

Why Are Medical Directives Important in North Carolina?

Without a Health Care Power of Attorney that names a Health Care Agent and instructions detailing your treatment preferences only a court appointed guardian would be legally authorized to make decisions for you.

However, North Carolina law states that a hierarchy of different people could make decisions to withdraw life support when (i) you have an irreversible condition that will result in your death within a short period of time, (ii) you are unconscious and, to a high degree of medical certainty, will never regain consciousness; or (iii) you suffer from advanced dementia, and to a high degree of medical certainty, your condition is irreversible. These people rank in the following order:

  1. Health care agents
  2. A guardian appointed by the court
  3. Spouse of a patient
  4. The majority of the patient’s children (who are at least 18 years old) and parents
  5. The majority of a patient’s siblings (who are at least 18 years old)
  6. A person in the patient’s life who has a positive relationship with them and will make decisions in good faith
  7. The patient’s current physician

When the decision falls to a person appointed by the court, they may not make decisions based on your values. Even when multiple family members make the decision, think of the stress that occurs in such situations. The added stress of the health crisis can also cause them to make decisions against your wishes. Advance health care directives help remove some of the stress and messiness of who makes the decisions.

How an Attorney in North Carolina Can Help with Your Medical Directives

A Health Care Power of Attorney is the first step in ensuring that you have someone with your interests in mind at the forefront of the decision-making process. While your agent does not have unlimited abilities, they can help select life-sustaining treatments in any circumstance where you cannot speak for yourself.

When our attorneys at Brady Cobin Law Group help you write medical directives, we help you specify:

  • Who receives power of attorney
  • Which medical treatments you do or do not want (for example, resuscitation, tube feeding, and the use of ventilators
  • Who your physician may release medical records to

You may believe that your loved ones will always act according to your wishes in the event of such a health crisis. But the combination of stress, grief, and fear often prevents others from thinking clearly. Clearly outlined medical directives and a carefully selected agent help you navigate an event in which you are incapacitated.

Contact an Experienced Elder Law Attorney in North Carolina Today

You want the peace of mind that someone you trust will make sound decisions on your behalf in case you are incapacitated. At Brady Cobin Law Group of Raleigh, NC, our experienced team can help you and your loved ones fully understand how to navigate such a health crisis by crafting medical directives. Working with us can save your family members the stress of hiring an attorney or fighting the court system later down the road. Call us at (919)-782-3500 to start the process today.