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Can a hospital and/or doctor force someone off life support in California?

Anaheim, CA |

My dad has been in the hospital for five weeks. He is in CCU and is on a vent for breathing and CRRT diaylsis...he has a perfect mind. He is alert when not drugged up. His resent blood work shows he is no longer in liver/kidney failure. He does have cancer and is 82 years young. We are being approached the last two days by social workers and doctors about comfort care so we know where their minds are at! We believe in life and our father wants everything done possible. There is no DNR or wishes to be off life support. What rights do we have as a family in this situation? Can they make a decision to stop treatment and life support? It is against our beliefs to stop life support when their is life?

Attorney Answers 4

  1. I am not a California attorney, but I believe the answer to your main question is NO, they cannot force you to remove life support. They will certainly not suggest this if there is a reasonable chance that your dad can recover meaningful quality of life.

    Your summary does not say whether your dad named anyone to act for him under a Designation of Patient Advocate or Health Care POA form. This may impact the answer to your questions because if your father DID complete these documents, then he gave someone legal authority to make these decisions.

    James Frederick

    ***Please be sure to mark if you find the answer "helpful" or a "best" answer. Thank you! I hope this helps. ***************************************** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state. I hope you our answer helpful!

  2. One cannot be forced off of life support. Your father has a multitude of medical problems. Have you spoken with the doctors about your father's life expectancy? With comfort care, physical symptoms continue to be addressed, but the emphasis shifts to the alleviation of pain and to giving emotional and spiritual care to the person with a limited life expectancy and his or her family. Talk this over with family members - it is imortant for everyone to receive emotional and spiritual support. If there is no cure for your father's problems, there is difficult but important work to be done in improving your father's quality of life, saying good-bye and grieving together.

  3. I’m sorry for this painful time in you and your family’s lives. This is a very difficult situation that you are facing. As Attorneys Frederick and McMahon have advised you, the hospital cannot force you to remove your father from life support. Your father and your family’s beliefs should be respected. Attorney McMahon is correct; you need to make sure that you have thoroughly discussed with the doctors whether your father can be expected to recover and his life expectancy.

    Disclaimer: The above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. My responses are intended to provide general information about the question posted. I am licensed to practice in the state of California. The information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for conferring with or hiring a competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in the subject area in your state.

  4. The fact that the hospital has approached you about comfort care does not--repeat DOES NOT-- mean they are looking to cease treatment. They are simply doing their jobs. That is ALL.

    Ms. Straus (aka Carroll) may be reached at 800-400-8978 during regular business hours, Pacific Time, or anytime by email at: All of Ms. Straus’ responses to questions posted on Avvo are intended as helpful information based upon the facts stated in the question, and are not to be relied upon as a final legal opinion. It may not be what you wished to hear, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship. Ms. Straus is licensed to practice law in California. If you would like to obtain specific legal advice about this issue, you must contact an attorney who is licensed to practice law in your state, and retain him or her. Me Straus provides “unbundled” services if you need specific assistance with a specific issue.

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