The North Carolina General Assembly recognizes as a matter of public policy that we have the fundamental right to die a natural and peaceful death in certain circumstances. Your Living Will provides your attending physicians with your wishes regarding life-prolonging measures such as artificial hydration and nutrition in specific circumstances.
Circumstances Which Trigger Living Will
If your attending physician determines you are unable to communicate with them, they will look to your Living Will in the following circumstances:
- You have an incurable or irreversible condition, and you are likely to die as a result of that condition within a relatively short period of time;
- You are unconscious, and your medical providers determine, to a high degree of medical certainty, that you will never regain consciousness or
- You suffer from severe or advanced dementia or any other condition that results in the substantial loss of your cognitive ability, and your medical providers determine, to a high degree of medical certainty, that the loss is irreversible.
Why Is a Living Will Important?
It can ensure your individual autonomy is honored whether you want loved ones to have the final say or if you wish to make the decision yourself. To the same effect, having a Living Will prepared can minimize family burden during an already emotional time if they have some clarity on what your wishes are. We never know what tomorrow might bring, and having the ability to map out your wishes and discuss them with your loved ones can alleviate added stress.
How Does My Living Will Differ From My Health Care Power Of Attorney?
Your Living Will only applies during one of the circumstances above. You do not appoint an agent in your Living Will, rather you communicate your wishes to your attending physicians as to what, if any, life-prolonging measures you wish to receive. Your Living Will can authorize your Health Care Agent to override your wishes outlined in your Living Will, or you can prohibit them from being able to make any decision contrary to what you have provided.
It is recommended that you speak with your primary care provider, as well as an estate attorney, to ensure your Living Will aligns with your wishes and beliefs.