Living Wills and Health Care Powers of Attorney

Call 828-286-5505 for more information


Making Your Wishes Known

What would happen if you experienced a serious medical problem and could not speak for yourself? Would someone know your wishes concerning medical care, life support and other interventions?

If you have a Living Will and a designated Health Care Power of Attorney (Advance Directives) your doctors and healthcare team will know exactly what your wishes are.


Frequently Asked Questions Concerning Living Wills

What is a Living Will? 

A living will is a document which tells your doctor or other healthcare providers whether or not you want life-sustaining treatments or procedures administered to you if you are in a terminal and incurable condition or a persistent vegetative state.  It is called a "living will" because it takes effect while you are still living.

Why should I have a living will?

What happens when you are not able to make your own medical decisions? A family member may have to decide when to start treatment, when not to start it, or when to stop it. Family members and physicians usually make decisions when the patient can't. Sometimes they disagree. Having a Living Will is a good idea so your wishes are known.

When does a North Carolina Living Will go into effect? It goes into effect when

  1. Your doctor has a copy of it AND
  2. Your doctor has decided that you are no longer able to make your own healthcare decisions it AND
  3. Your doctor and another doctor have determined that you are in a terminal and incurable condition or a persistent vegetative state.

What are 'life-sustaining' treatments? 

These are treatments or procedures that are not expected to cure your terminal condition or make you better.  They only prolong dying.  Examples are mechanical respirators which help you breathe, kidney dialysis which cleans your body of wastes and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) which restores your heartbeat.

What is a 'terminal and incurable' condition? 

They are conditions for which the administration of medical treatment will only prolong the dying process and without administration of these treatments or procedures, death will occur in a relatively short period of time.

What is a 'persistent vegetative state?' 

This means that a patient is in a permanent coma or state of unconsciousness caused by illness, injury or disease.  The patient is totally unaware of himself, his surroundings and environment and to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, there can be no recovery.

Will I receive medication for pain? 

Unless you state otherwise in the living will, medication for pain will be provided where appropriate to make you comfortable and will not be discontinued.

What do I need to do to have a Living Will?

You must complete a form and sign the document yourself with the date.  Then it must be witnessed by two (2) qualified adults and either be notarized or be certified by a clerk or assistant clerk of a Superior Court in North Carolina.

Who cannot sign my Living Will?

  1. Anyone related to you or your spouse within the third degree (grandparents, parents, children or grandchildren).

  2. Anyone who is entitled to any portion of your estate.

  3. Your attending physician, licensed healthcare providers who are paid employees of your attending physician.

  4. Paid employees of a health facility, nursing home or adult care home in which you reside.

  5. Any person who has any claim against your estate.


Frequently Asked Questions Concerning Health Care Power of Attorney

What is a Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPA)? 

A HCPA is a legal document which allows you (the principal) to appoint another individual to make medical and/or mental health decisions for you if you should become temporarily or permanently unable to make those decisions yourself.

Who can I appoint? 

You can appoint almost any adult to be your agent.  You should select a person knowledgeable about your wishes, values, religious beliefs, in whom you have trust and confidence and who knows how you feel about healthcare.  You should discuss the matter with the person you have chosen and make sure that they understand and agree to accept the responsibility.

Who can't I appoint? 

Anyone who is providing you with healthcare and whom you are paying for that healthcare.

When does the HCPA take effect? 

When you are temporarily or permanently unable to make your own healthcare decisions and your agent consents to start making those decisions.  Your agent will begin making decisions after your doctors have decided that you are no longer able to make them.

When does my agent not make these decisions for me?

 As long as you are capable of making your own treatment decisions, you have the right to do so and not your agent.

Can there be more than one agent? 

Yes.  While you are not required to do so, you may designate alternates who may also act for you, if your primary agent is unavailable, unable or unwilling to act.

Does the HCPA have to be signed and witness? 

Yes, you must sign (or have someone sign the document in your presence and at your direction, if you are unable to sign) and date the document.  Then it must be witnessed by two (2) qualified adults and notarized.

What is the difference between a Power of Attorney and Health Care Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a document that allows you to appoint a person or organization to handle your financial affairs while you're unavailable or unable to do so. 

A HCPA allows you to appoint someone to make health care decisions for you if you're incapacitated.

For more information call the Patient Representative at 828-286-5505.