Advance Health Care (AHC) Directives
Advance Health Care Directives are legal documents that contain your personal health care wishes, and formal instructions for how you would like those health care wishes carried out in the event that you cannot speak for yourself.
What are the Types of AHC Directives?
- Health Care Power of Attorney
- Advance Directive for a Natural Death aka “living will”
- Advance Instruction for Mental Health Treatment
- Declaration of an Anatomical gift (Organ Donation)
What does each legal document do?
A Health Care Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone to make your health care decisions for you in the event that you are not capable of making those decisions for yourself.
A Declaration of a Desire for a Natural Death (also known as a living will) is a formal declaration of your desire not to have your life prolonged by extraordinary means if you have a terminal or incurable illness, or if you are in a vegetative state.
An Advance Instruction for Mental Health Treatment allows you to specify your preferences and give instructions for mental health treatment. This document also allows you to appoint someone you trust to make your mental health decisions for you in the event that you cannot make them yourself.
A Declaration of an Anatomical Gift is a formal statement that you wish to donate all or part of your body upon death for any purpose that is permitted by statute. The donation may be specified through a will, organ donor card, or other valid document.
How do I obtain the appropriate AHC directive(s)?
You have several options for obtaining advance health care directives for yourself:
- If your state has an online advance health care directive registry, you can access and fill out the valid directives on your own. To determine whether or not your state has an online registry you may contact your personal attorney, contact the office of the Secretary of State for your state, or use an internet search engine to locate the registry. If you will be filing advance directives in the state of North Carolina, you may access the NC registry and instructions from the Student Legal Services website, or from www.nclifelinks.org.
- You may access forms online through organizations that provide copies of advance health care directives. However, if you choose to access the directives from an organization’s website, you should consult an attorney to make sure that the forms are deemed valid in your state. A safer alternative would be to search your state government’s webpage for copies of advance directives. If you want to obtain valid NC advance health care directives, you may access the forms through UNC Student Legal Services. Please contact us to schedule an appointment to receive and discuss the information in these forms.
- You may contact an attorney who can provide you with the valid forms for your state. However, you are not required to use an attorney to complete any of the advance directive forms.
Do I need an attorney to help me get started?
No. The advance health care directive forms were designed to allow you to complete the forms on your own, without requiring the assistance of an attorney. However, you may want to contact an attorney if you do not feel comfortable filling out the forms on your own.
Do I need to have witnesses when I fill out the forms?
Yes. You will need two witnesses for each form you wish to fill out. There are restrictions on who can function as a witness, so make sure you read the advance directive forms thoroughly before determining who to ask.
Do I need to have the forms notarized?
Yes. You will need a notary public to notarize the following forms: Health Care Power of Attorney, Declaration of a Desire for a Natural Death, and Advance Instruction for Mental Health Treatment. You do not need to have your Declaration of an Anatomical Gift notarized.
Who should I ask questions regarding my AHC Directives?
If you have legal questions regarding your directives, and are a full-time student at UNC, you may contact Student Legal Services. You may also contact your personal attorney, or the Department of the Secretary of State for the state in which you will be filing the directives. If you have medical questions, or other personal questions regarding treatment options, you may want to discuss your advance directives with your physician.
Who should I notify about my AHC Directives?
You should provide a copy to your physician to keep in your medical records. You should also provide a copy to any individuals you trust with your health care decisions, such as family members, surrogates, and other health care providers. If you have a personal attorney, provide him or her with a copy. Providing as many individuals as you trust with copies of your advance directives will insure that your health care wishes are met in the event that you cannot express your wishes for yourself. In addition, filing your directives with an online registry, such as the NC Advance Health Care Directive Online Registry, will provide an easy way for you and your care providers to access your directives.
Where do I keep my AHC Directives?
Keep your copy in a safe place in your home, where it can be easily located. Do not keep your only copy of your advance directives in your bank safe deposit box.
What Happens if I Change my Mind?
If you want to change part or all of a document, simply destroy that document and complete a new one. You will have to go through the same process as when you originally completed the directive. Make sure you inform your physician, and any other individuals who have a copy of your previous directive, that the original document is no longer valid, and that you have replaced it with a new directive. Provide these individuals with the new copy. If you filed a directive through an online registry, follow the instructions for altering documents provided on the registry webpage.
Do AHC Directives Transfer from State to State?
Not necessarily. An advance health care directive filed in one state may not meet the requirements of another state’s laws regarding advance directives. If you will be moving to or spending a significant amount of time in a different state, you may want to file new directives for the state in question, or have an attorney review and compare the advance directive legal requirements for both states. However, since an advance health care directive contains formal documentation of your health care preferences, it should have influence on your care regardless of where you are admitted.
Verified June 2011