Can a wife remove life support without a health care power of attorney

Asked about 1 year ago - Seneca, SC

My friends husband is on life support. They have discussed his desires, but do not have a living will or health care power of attorney. Can she make the decision to take him off of life support without these things?

Attorney answers (3)

  1. John R.C. Bowen

    Contributor Level 9

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    Answered . I am very sorry for your friends predicament. If there is no advance health care directive, declaration of a desire for a natural death, or other similar document which her husband signed in advance of this situation, the decision to discontinue life support generally falls to the next of kin absent some state law provision to the contrary. It is always desireable to try to reach a consenus among the close family members if possible. The treating physicians can be very helpful in these unfortunate circumstances, and it is also helpful that she is aware of her husbands desires.

    If the hospital refuses to discontinue treatment, or if there is disagreement among the close family, your friend should consult with a qualified probate lawyer in your area as soon as possible to determine her legal options.

    Again, I am very sorry that your friend finds herself in this difficult situation. End of life decisions are often difficult and agonizing which is a good reason to make sure your desires are properly documented in advance. If this answer is helpful or the best answer, please let me know by selection of one of the options below.

    This response does not create an attorney client relationship, and is for general information purposes only. You... more
  2. Ian Andrew Taylor

    Contributor Level 13

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    Answered . SC has a statute that lays out the priority of individuals to make the decision in regards to life support if there are no other documents giving her that authority. Certainly, the spouse would have to consult with the treating physicians. My colleague provides an excellent approach the decision with consultation with the doctors. The doctors and hospital will have staff to elaborate on your friend's position to make these decisions. If it is a contentious issue and all parties cannot agree, the advice of an attorney is recommended.
    ian
    Ian A. Taylor
    The Taylor Law Office L.L.C. | (843) 314-4313
    Pawleys Island, SC
    Estates. Probate. Adult Guardianship. Foreclosure. Insurance.

    The Rules of Professional Conduct for my state only allow me to provide general legal information regarding your... more
  3. Joseph Michael Pankowski Jr

    Contributor Level 18

    Answered . I agree with Attorneys Bowen and Taylor. Thankfully, there is a South Carolina statute on point which gives your friend priority to make a decision in this case. Nevertheless, getting everyone in the family "on board" with the decision is going to be critical because if someone objects, there could be a significant hiccup. Your friend's case illustrates why it's so important to have estate planning documents in place before they are needed.

    This information is presented as a public service. It should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor... more

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