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Advance Health Care Directives

If you become seriously ill or sustain a major injury due to an accident and can't make medical decisions for yourself, certain laws give you the ability to make sure that your wishes regarding your health care are known. This can be done through what is called an Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD).

An Advance Health Care Directive makes your health care wishes known to others if you become mentally or physically incapacitated and can't speak or communicate in other ways.

By filling out an Advance Health Care Directive form, you can appoint another person to become your health care "agent" or your "attorney-in-fact" to have the legal authority to make decisions for you.

You may also write your wishes down in the AHCD form. By doing this, your doctor, or other health care professionals, must follow your written instructions, which are valid under your state law.

An Advance Health Care Directive is similar to a Living Will but it allows you to have more control over your health care.

  • For example, where as a traditional Living Will states your desire not to receive life-sustaining treatment in the event you become terminally ill or if you go into a coma and become permanently unconscious, an Advance Health Care Directive allows you to give legal instructions about accepting or refusing life-sustaining treatment in any situation, not just when you are in a coma or if you become terminally ill.

You do not need a separate living will if you have already stated your wishes about the types of life sustaining treatment you wish in an Advance Health Care Directive.

In some states, the Advance Health Care Directive has replaced the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care as the legally recognized document used for appointing health care agents. If you already have a a valid Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care though, it is still valid unless it has expired.

Since the Advance Health Care Directive is more updated and gives you more flexibility in stating your health care desires, you may want to review your existing Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and make the change if you feel it is necessary.

To complete a valid Advance Health Care Directive, you must be at least 18 years of age or older (or an emancipated minor), be of sound mind, and acting on your own free will.

If you want to get more information about Advance Health Care Directives, talk to your doctor. You can also get information online by Googling: Advance Health Care Directives in your state. Example: North Carolina Advance Health Care Directives.com

For legal advice when filling out an Advance Health Care Directive, talk to an attorney.


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