In North Carolina, the General Assembly recognizes that we all have the fundamental right to control decisions related to our medical care. In this effort, a law has been enacted to provide that anyone who is competent and at least 18 years of age in North Carolina can select a health care agent, known as their health care power of attorney, to make medical decisions for them when and if they become incapacitated or unable to communicate. Just like a will, the statute requires two witnesses and that your signature be notarized.
Why is a Health Care Power of Attorney so important?
There are many laws that have been passed to protect one’s medical information (hence the HIPPA documentation provided by every medical facility). For this reason, hospitals and medical professionals are very careful not to release information without specific authorization. While a Doctor may speak to a spouse or even a parent of a patient over the age of 18, a Health Care Power of Attorney ensures that the appropriate individual will be consulted when a patient is incapacitated or unable to communicate their own wishes. Without a Health Care Power of Attorney, medical personnel may not know who they can legally speak with about a patient’s medical condition. Instead, a hospital’s medical staff could be making healthcare decisions for a patient that may be contrary to what a patient really desires.
Who should I select as my health care agent?
You may select anyone who is competent and over the age of 18 – as long as they are not directly involved in providing your health care. This should be a person that you trust since they can make any decision that you can make regarding your health care (including, but not limited to: choosing doctors, selecting a course of treatment, tests, surgery or medications). You can also provide for specific limitations if you are concerned that your wishes may not be followed in a particular circumstance.
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