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Advance directives

Seamlessly integrating your healthcare instructions with our services

When the time comes, having to make a difficult medical care decision for yourself or a loved one can seem like an impossible task – especially with emotions running high. We understand the difficult position this can create for your family and friends. We want you to be aware of legal tools that are available to you and can help you with difficult medical decisions if and when the time comes.

What is an advance directive?

An advance directive is a written description of the medical care you would, or would not, want in the future if you were unable to speak for yourself. This description should be based on your values and what is important to you. An advance directive also can include the name of someone who will make healthcare decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself.

We will follow the instructions expressed by your advance directive to the extent required by law. If you are unable to make, or make known, medical decisions and do not have an advance directive, we will obtain consent from your spouse, parents, guardian, nearest relative or other person authorized to speak for you.

What is a healthcare power of attorney?

In North Carolina, you can name a person to make medical care decisions for you, including mental health treatment decisions, if you later become unable to decide yourself. This person is called your healthcare agent. In the legal document, you name who you want your agent to be. You can say what medical treatments you would want and what you would not want. Your agent then knows what choices you would make.

How can I know which procedures I want or do not want to prolong my life?

It is impossible to specify every procedure under all circumstances; but it is possible to decide what kind of treatment you would want in most situations. There are certain common conditions and treatments used in end-of-life situations. Some of the common conditions may include terminal and dementing illnesses and permanent brain damage, while the treatments can range from CPR, to ventilators, to artificial nutrition and hydration, to dialysis and antibiotics that can be discussed in advance. If you have questions about the procedures commonly used for severe illnesses, when recovery is unlikely, you should speak with your doctor.

It is important that you explain your preferences with your family, friends and others who may take part in assisting with your healthcare needs. Some things to discuss with these individuals include your views about:

  • Death
  • Being totally dependent on the care of others
  • Family finances
  • Conditions that would make life unbearable to you
  • How artificial life-support would affect the dying process
If you are in a coma or mentally incompetent and don’t have an advance directive, who makes the decision to stop treatment?

If you do not have an advance directive, the decision is left to your family, physician and hospital. If an agreement cannot be reached, the case will then go to court and a judge will make the decision, often with help from the hospital's ethics committee. The person who has the authority to make the decisions when there are no advance directives may not be the person you would have chosen.

What will the hospital do if I am ever in a situation where there is no advance directive?

We have an ethics committee, which can help you get all the facts you need to make a decision as well as offer feedback and suggestions.

Our physicians, nurses, social workers, lawyers, clergy and patient representatives can discuss the issues and advise on hospital policy if there's a lack of clarity. The final decision is still up to you, your family and physician.

For any further questions, contact the closest Novant Health hospital in your area.