§ 32A-24. Reliance on health care power of attorney; defense.
(a) Any physician or other health care provider involved in the medical care of the principal may rely upon the authority of the health care agent contained in a signed and acknowledged health care power of attorney in the absence of actual knowledge of revocation of the health care power of attorney. The physician or health care provider may rely upon a copy of the health care power of attorney obtained from the Advance Health Care Directive Registry maintained by the Secretary of State pursuant to Article 21 of Chapter 130A of the General Statutes to the same extent that the individual may rely upon the original document.
(b) All health care decisions made by a health care agent pursuant to a health care power of attorney during any period following a determination that the principal lacks understanding or capacity to make or communicate health care decisions shall have the same effect as if the principal were not incapacitated and were present and acting on his or her own behalf. Any health care provider relying in good faith on the authority of a health care agent shall be protected to the full extent of the power conferred upon the health care agent, and no person so relying on the authority of the health care agent shall be liable, by reason of his reliance, for actions taken pursuant to a decision of the health care agent.
(c) The withholding or withdrawal of life-prolonging measures by or under the orders of a physician pursuant to the authorization of a health care agent shall not be considered suicide or the cause of death for any civil or criminal purpose nor shall it be considered unprofessional conduct or a lack of professional competence. Any person, institution or facility, including without limitation the health care agent and the attending physician, against whom criminal or civil liability is asserted because of conduct described in this section, may interpose this section as a defense.
(d) The protections of this section extend to any valid health care power of attorney, including a document valid under G.S. 32A-27; these protections are not limited to health care powers of attorney prepared in accordance with the statutory form provided in G.S. 32A-25.1, or to health care powers of attorney filed with the Advance Health Care Directive Registry maintained by the Secretary of State. A health care provider may rely in good faith on an oral or written statement by legal counsel that a document appears to meet applicable statutory requirements for a health care power of attorney. These protections also extend to a document executed in another jurisdiction that is valid as a health care power of attorney under G.S. 32A-27. A health care provider shall have no liability for acting in accordance with a revoked health care power of attorney unless that provider has actual notice of the revocation. (1991, c. 639, s. 1; 2001-455, s. 3; 2001-513, s. 30(b); 2007-502, ss. 5(a), (b).)