(919) 435-3646

The North Carolina Advance Health Care Directive Registry: A Great Idea

No one I know carries their health care power of attorney or advance directive in their pocket or purse. So, if you are injured away from home (for example in a car accident) or become sick at home but are unconscious, how can you be sure the ER will know who to call or what your wishes are regarding treatment? The answer is to register your health care power of attorney and advance directive with the North Carolina Secretary of State.

As described in greater detail in another article from our firm, health care powers of attorney and advance directives come into play when you are incapacitated or unable to communicate medical decisions. It is very important for those documents to be readily available to your agent and health care providers in order for them to allow your agent to make health care decisions for you and to follow the guidelines you have set out. The North Carolina Secretary of State’s office has a statewide registry that enables medical personnel to locate any document you have registered without delay.

In the registry, each document is assigned a unique identification number that you can provide to your named agents, close friends or family members, and your primary care physician. Most importantly, you will also receive a wallet-sized card with the identification number that you should keep in the same location as your driver’s license or I.D. card. In the event of an emergency, EMS will try to locate your wallet and transport it with you to the ER. If Medical personnel at the ER can locate that card, they will have immediate access to your registered health care documents.

Registration is simple and inexpensive. You will need to fill out the short registration form currently available here: Secretary of State’s Advance Health Care Directive Registry. Mail the completed form, a copy of your health care documents, and $10 per document to the PO box listed on the registration form. Please be sure not to mail your original documents; keep them in a secure location where they can be easily accessed if needed.

It usually takes two or three weeks for the Secretary of State’s office to process your registration and mail the registration cards to you. You should keep one of the cards in your wallet as we mentioned above, and keep the other card in a secure area of your home as a backup. You should also provide the identification number to your named health care agents and any other emergency contacts.

A few pointers:
• Keep the contact information for your health care agents up-to-date on your health care power of attorney. If you change your health care documents after they have been registered, remove the old documents from the registry and register the new ones.
• If you want EMS to call your health care agent as soon as possible, put that request with your agent’s cell phone number and a copy of your registry card on the front of your refrigerator along with any MOST (Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment) or DNR (Do Not Resuscitate order) cards if any. Use a bright color.
• Review your health care power of attorney and advance directive at least once every three years to see if it needs updating.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.