The two main types of advance directives recognized by North Carolina law are a living will (advance directive for a natural death) and a health care power of attorney.
A living will is a document that tells an individual’s family, physician and other healthcare providers whether or not they want certain types of “life-prolonging measures” or medical treatments. These are used if an individual has an incurable or irreversible condition that is expected to result in death within a short period of time, are unconscious and not expected to regain consciousness, or have advanced dementia or substantial loss of cognitive ability that is not expected to be regained.
A health care power of attorney is a legal document that allows individuals to name another person to make medical decisions for them if they become temporarily or permanently unable to make decisions for themselves. Individuals become eligible to prepare advance directive documents at the age of eighteen, and are encouraged to do so as soon as possible.
To be made official and legal, the documents must be witnessed and notarized. Once the documents are prepared, the individual should keep copies in a secure place in their home, as well as distribute copies to their family and primary care physicians so they can be readily available when needed.
Cone Health Department of Spiritual Care and Wholeness and Department of Social Work provide the education and resources needed for the process of preparing advance medical directives for individuals and families in the community.
Hope Rife is the director of the Clinical Social Work Department at Cone Health. She is a licensed clinical social worker, and has worked for Cone Health for twenty-five years. Hope received a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and anthropology from Davidson College in 1983, and earned a Master of Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1985.