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Cancer brings up a number of legal issues for a caregiver and their loved one to consider. Below are different terms that you might hear about and what they mean:

  • An Advance Directive is a way for a patient to state their preferred course if they become incapacitated during their treatment. It allows the patient to choose a decision maker, usually their caregiver or close family member, in case they can no longer make their own decisions.
  • A Living Will is a specific type of Advance Directive where patients can list the types of treatment they want and those they do not want, in case their caregiver needs to make decisions.
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney (POA) or Durable POA, is a type of Advance Directive where a patient chooses someone, usually their main caregiver, to make medical decisions on their behalf.

Prepare For Your Care – Advance Care Planning
Combined Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney used by UNC Hospitals

UNC Medical Center Advance Care Planning
Starting the Conversation

American Cancer Society
Contains information on legal rights that may come up during treatment including Advance Directives, Informed Consent, the Patient’s Bill of Rights, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), working during and after treatment, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Legal Resources at the NC Cancer Hospital:

NC Cancer Hospital Legal Services
UNC Cancer Care patients and caregivers get free help with powers of attorney and living wills. Call the Patient & Family Resource Center, (984) 974-8100 for more information.

Patient Legal Handbook
Cancer Legal Resources Center at the Disability Rights Legal Center
This handbook covers work, medical leave of absence, health insurance, appealing denials, paying bills, and end of life decision making.


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