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

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?

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Best Answer

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 should promptly contact an attorney in your area to ascertain your legal rights.


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 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 question. I am unable to offer my services directly or specific answers to your question. The information provided is not intended to create an attorney/client relationship and shall not be construed as legal advice. Therefore, the resources or information given is provided as general information only. I caution Askers not to attempt to solve individual problems upon the basis of the information contained therein.


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 considered to be the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. I am licensed in Connecticut and New York and my answers are based upon the law in those jurisdictions. My answer to any specific question would likely be different if I were to review a client's file and have the opportunity to interview the client. Accordingly, I strongly urge you to retain an attorney in your jurisdiction with respect to any legal matter.

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