A Healthcare Power of Attorney is a legal document that lets you identify a person to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, also known as a healthcare agent, but only if you are unable to do so yourself. Anyone 18 years or older who has capacity to communicate their healthcare decisions can name a healthcare agent through this document.
It is important to note that advance directive documents are state specific. In this resource video, we review document requirements for the state of North Carolina. Although there are multiple document options when completing a Health Care Power of Attorney, we will reference a document called “An Advance Directive for North Carolina” which includes the option to complete a Health Care Power of Attorney in addition to a Living Will, which is discussed in a separate resource video. Click here to access the Living Will resource video.
Common Questions & Helpful Answers
Q: What decisions can your healthcare agent make?
A: Your health care agent can make all health care decisions for you, including, starting or stopping life-prolonging measures, decisions about mental health treatment, choosing your doctors and facilities, reviewing and sharing your medical information, as well as autopsies, organ donation, and completing final arrangements if you choose this option on the document.
Q: When will a Health Care Power of Attorney be effective?
A: The Health Care Power of Attorney will become effective only after your physician has determined that you are unable to make your own decisions.
Q: Who can be a healthcare agent and how do I choose?
A: Any legal adult who is not being paid to take care of you can be your healthcare agent. A good healthcare agent is someone who knows you well, is available to make decisions in emergency situations, is willing to honor your wishes, and understands the care you want and decisions you would make. A good healthcare agent is also reliable, organized, and comfortable communicating with your healthcare providers and family members about your care needs and wishes.
Q: How can I change or revoke a Health Care Power of Attorney?
A: Before you become unable to make care decisions, you can destroy the Health Care Power of Attorney document, write the word “void” across the document, ask your healthcare provider to destroy any copies of the document, or simply complete a new Health Care Power of Attorney document to replace the old one.
Q: What if I don’t have a Health Care Power of Attorney?
A: If you become unable to make your own health care decisions and you have not chosen a healthcare agent, North Carolina law requires your healthcare providers to rely on specific members of your family to agree on care decisions in your place. Another option for your loved ones and healthcare providers is to complete a document called a MOST form, and we encourage you to click here and take a look at our video about this form.
Healthcare Power of Attorney vs. Durable Power of Attorney
If you have questions about a Health Care Power of Attorney document or process, you can reach out to your healthcare provider or contact a member of your care team.