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Advance directives

It is very difficult to think about contemplate whether or not you want to be kept alive, perhaps for years, through the use of "extraordinary means" and advanced medical technology. Talking about this with loved ones can be extremely uncomfortable. Yet, it is so very important.

The Patient Self-Determination Act of 1990 gives you an opportunity, a reason and a process through which you can express your wishes for medical care and end-of-life treatment should you be unable to speak for yourself. By completing advance directives, you relieve your loved ones from having to make very difficult decisions on your behalf. These are truly life-and-death decisions.

If you choose to execute a living will, healthcare power of attorney, advance instruction for mental health treatment, a do not resuscitate order (DNR) or medical orders for scope of treatment (MOST), it is very important that you discuss, in detail, your wishes and the existence of these documents with your family. Give a photocopy of the documents to your next of kin and anyone else a healthcare provider may contact in case of an emergency. A copy should be brought with you upon each admission to the hospital. The original documents should be kept with other important papers; please notify your family of the location. There is also information included in the "Options and Developments" packet below about a State of North Carolina Registry program for your healthcare planning documents that would allow you to access them from anywhere, should you need to receive care somewhere away from home.

To learn more about advance directives, your options and how to put your wishes in writing, download Options and Developments Pertaining to Advance Directives and Health Care Planning. It's a free, printable PDF that will tell you what you need to know about each of the following documents. Those that do not require a physician's order have also been made available for you to download and print at your convenience: