Advance Health Care Directive

Have you thought about what kind of health care you would want at the end of life? Would you want your family to use life-sustaining procedures such as mechanical ventilation or artificial nutrition and hydration if you are terminally ill or if you are in a persistent vegetative state? Would you want your loved ones agonizing over making life and death decisions for you during a time of emotional turmoil? By preparing Advance Health Care Directives, you can make your own legally binding decisions. One example of an Advance Health Care Directive is a Declaration of a Desire for a Natural Death or Living Will. A Living Will allows you to determine in advance the type of life sustaining medical treatment you will (or will not) receive when there is no hope of your recovery.

If you were in an accident that left you unable to make your own health care decisions or to speak for yourself, whom would you want to speak for you and make your medical decisions? Many times, the person who legally has the authority may not be the person you would have chosen. A Health Care Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone as your agent to make medical decisions for you any time you are unable to make your own treatment decisions, not just at the end of life. You can include special provisions or specific limitations about any medical treatment. Your agent must be at least 18 and should be a family member or close friend whom you trust to act in your best interests and make serious and very important medical decisions for you.

To set up Advance Health Care Directives, such as a Living Will and a Health Care Power of Attorney, SECU recommends you consult with an attorney; however, if you are a North Carolina resident, more information and forms are available at the NC Secretary of State's Advanced Health Care Directive (AHCD) Registry website.1 The documents contain important information related to their proper execution, which you should review and discuss with an attorney if you have any questions.  While an attorney is not required to set up an Advance Health Care Directive, you may wish to consult an attorney if you have a potential family conflict or specific legal concern.

Once your documents are prepared, it is important to make them easily accessible by providing copies and sharing your decisions with your loved ones and your physician. In addition, you may want to consider filing your documents with the NC Secretary of State's AHCD Registry. Although registration is not required, for a small fee, the registry service makes your documents readily available online to health care providers such as hospital and emergency physicians. Please review our Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

Questions about Advance Health Care Directives may be answered by consulting an attorney or other agencies that specialize in end of life choices and issues. The material above is intended to be accurate; however, consultation with appropriate professionals for assistance is recommended.
1For members living outside of North Carolina, please consult your local health care provider for your state approved forms.