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Health Care Power of Attorneys

What is a Health Care Power of Attorney?

A health care power of attorney is a document that an individual puts into place to designate an agent to make his or her medical decisions in the event the individual is incapacitated. North Carolina has recognized, as a matter of public policy, the fundamental right of an individual to control the decisions relating to their medical care and to exercise such right through the use of an agent chosen by the principal. N.C.G.S. section 32A-15. A health care power of attorney achieves this objective.

Who may make a Health Care Power of Attorney?

Any person having understanding and capacity to make and communicate health care decisions, who is 18 years of age or older, may make a health care power of attorney. N.C.G.S. section 32A-17.

Who may act as a Health Care Attorney-In-Fact?

Any competent person who is not engaged in providing health care to the principal for remuneration, and who is 18 years of age or older, may act as a health care agent. N.C.G.S. section 32A-18.

When does a Health Care Power of Attorney become effective?

A health care power of attorney is established for the agent to make health care decisions when the principal lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make or communicate decisions relating to their health care. Under North Carolina law, a health care power of attorney becomes effective when and if the physician or physicians designated by the principal determine in writing that the principal lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make or communicate decisions relating to the health care of the principal. N.C.G.S. section 32A-20.

How long is a Health Care Power of Attorney good for?

A health care power of attorney is good until the principal revokes the health care power of attorney or until the principal regains the ability to obtain sufficient understanding or capacity to make or communicate decisions relating to their health care. 

Why do I need a Health Care Power of Attorney?

A health care power of attorney is key document for estate planning and allows an individual to make health care decisions through an agent when they are not able to make those decisions. If there is not a health care power of attorney in place for an individual, an incapacitated person may run into a situation where their family is struggling to make health care decisions for them due to conflicting family requests for treatment. Simply put, a health care power of attorney gives a person control of how they want their medical treatment to be administered in the event they are incapacitated and reduces family conflict.

The North Carolina article addressing health care power of attorneys, which is Article 3, can be found here

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