Advance directives are legal statements that let others know what type of health care you want if you become too sick to speak for yourself. Having advance directives is good for everyone since accidents and illness can strike at any time. Advance directives help you protect your rights, help your family avoid the stress of making hard decisions, and give your doctor guidelines for the care you want.
We are required by law to ask if you have an advance directive. Your response will be written in your medical record. In order for your advance directive(s) to be carried out as you wish, it is best to give us a copy to put in your current medical record. If you did not bring your copy, you can fill out a new one or you can "declare your intent" until your family brings your copy. This means your doctor or nurse will ask if you want to name someone to make health care decisions for you if you are too ill to make those decisions.
Advance directives protect your wishes by putting them in writing. There are 3 advance directives you can prepare in advance.
A living will lets you choose the kind of health care you want. Your loved ones do not have to guess what you want. It is called a living will because it takes effect while the patient is alive.
In North Carolina, a living will is a legal document that tells others you want to die a natural death if you have an illness that will result in death in a short time (terminal) and cannot be cured if you are unconscious and doctors have a high degree of certainty you will not wake up (vegetative state).
In a living will, you can direct your doctor not to use certain treatments that could prolong your life. For example, you can instruct your doctor not to use a breathing machine (ventilator), or to stop the machine if it has been started. You also can direct your doctor not to begin or to stop giving you food and water through a tube.
Health Care Power of Attorney
In North Carolina, you can name a person to make health care decisions for you if you are too sick to make them yourself. In this legal document, you name the person you want to be your health care agent. Make sure this person knows what treatments you would want and what you would not want. Having a living will is not the same thing as choosing someone to make health care decisions for you.
You should choose someone you trust to do what's best for you. Ask the person if he or she will be your health care agent. Then, discuss your wishes with this person.
Advance Instruction for Mental Health Treatment
In North Carolina, this legal document instructs others about certain types of mental health treatments you do or do not want in case you are not able to make the decision. Mental health treatments you might choose to receive or withhold include:
- ECT (shock treatment)
- Use of medicines that alter the mind, such as tranquilizers
- Being admitted to or kept in a facility for care or treatment of mental illness
Frequently Asked Questions
The following will answer some common questions. If you want to learn more or would like to complete an advance directive, please ask your nurse to call the hospital chaplain. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center honors advance directives that have been properly signed, witnessed and notarized.