Tag Archives: Living Will

Who decides whether to terminate end of life care?

featimg_2_11The answer may seem obvious.  You, or your designated agent make this decision.  You have prepared a living will and left instructions for your agent to follow or, if you are still able to speak for yourself, you tell the doctors what you want.

In Texas, this is not true.  Because of the Texas Advance Directives Act, a hospital ethics panel – not you or your family – decide whether to end care!

Last October, Evelyn Kelly learned this the hard way.  Her son, David Chris Dunn, a 46 year old former county sheriff had entered Houston Methodist Hospital, transferred from Bayshore Medical Center in Pasadena.  He had a mass on his pancreas and was in renal failure.

He’d been intubated for a month and the doctors had kept him sedated so he wouldn’t disturb the tube in his throat.  Dunn couldn’t verbally respond to questions but he followed his mother’s movements with his eyes and he could nod in response to his mother’s questions.

One day, the chairman of the hospital’s Bioethics Committee told Ms. Kelly that the doctors had met and decided it was time to end David’s medical care.  The hospital ethics committee was going to meet in 48 hours to make its final decision.  Ms. Kelly had made it clear that, as a born-again Christian, she wasn’t going to take her son off of life support.

“From Kelly’s standpoint, every second her son lived was a reason for hope, but for the doctors, it had meant weeks of treating a man who wasn’t showing any signs of improvement beyond simply having a pulse.”

Chris Dunn died in December 2015.

“In Texas, it doesn’t matter what instructions you’ve previously given or what your relatives say:  If you’re in critical condition, you’re dependent on machines to survive and hospital officials decide it’s time to pull the plug, you will die.  And it’s completely legal.”

It’s rare for a patient’s case to end up before a hospital ethics committee only because most patients die before the process is completed.    However, when it does, it’s very difficult to stop the process based on a law signed by George Bush in 1999.

There are several other cases that have been reported.  Here’s one that happened in 2005 when Zee Klein’s 91 year old mother, Edith Pereira, was taken to the Texas Medical Center with a urinary tract infection.  She had brittle diabetes and had gone blind from the disease but her heart and lungs were in good shape, she could still feed herself and she was fairly lucid most of the time.

The family was focused on getting the infection under control so didn’t argue when a doctor put Pereira on a dose of morphine that would keep her unconscious, and thus unable to eat and regulate her blood sugar.  When the medical team told Klein they wouldn’t install a feeding tube for her mother, Klein had a problem.  One of the doctors told her “ We feel that your mother’s spirit is telling us she wants to die!”

Klein was dumbfounded.  She managed to have her mother transferred to another hospital where she lived for about six months before dying.

Be sure you know what’s legal in your state and be prepared.  For more information about advance healthcare directives and living wills, go to www.diesmart.com.


5 Legal Documents every caregiver needs

biyExXGATIf you think a relative may be at risk of dementia or some other disease that will affect their reasoning ability, there are 5 legal documents you should get that relative to complete while still able to do so. Otherwise, when you become that person’s caregiver, you will need to go to court to apply for guardianship and the right to make decisions on his behalf. That court application will typically take 6 – weeks and cost you thousands of dollars. If another family member contests your application, it will only take more time and cost even more money. Don’t wait too long or it might be too late. Your relative may no longer be competent to make these critical decisions.

The 5 advance directive documents are:

  1. A durable power of attorney – It gives you the right to make financial decisions for that relative. Those can be things like paying bills, selling property and making investments.
  2. A healthcare proxy – This gives you the right to make medical decisions on the incapacitated relative’s behalf. This can include things like what course of treatment to follow, which physician to choose and where treatment should be performed.
  3. A living will – This states the medical treatment the person wants, or doesn’t want, so the decisions have been made before you take over. They include things like whether medical personnel should try resuscitation if the person’s heart stops, whether heroic measures should be taken, whether pain killers should be administered, etc.
  4. A current will – If the person has an old will, it should be reviewed to make sure that it reflects his or her present wishes and circumstances. Perhaps the will was written several years ago and needs to be changed. The will should state what should happen to all assets after he or she is deceased.
  5. You might want to also consider a living trust.   A living trust can make it easier for your fiduciaries to manage those assets while following the instructions of an incapacitated or deceased person.

State laws vary so you might want to consult an attorney when preparing these documents. And for more information about advance directives and wills versus trusts, go to www.diesmart.com.


Common mistakes when writing a will

Business ClipartEveryone is going to die; that’s a fact.  And everyone should have a will.  That’s another fact.  If you die without a will, the probate court will decide what happens to  your assets; you won’t.

My father died about 15 years ago.  He left a will he had prepared himself, typed on his old electric typewriter and had a few friends sign as witnesses.  I don’t know how he decided what to put in the will and the wording to use.  All I know is that after he died, when I tried to probate the will, there were some problems with it and it took a while to get them resolved.

If you don’t want to go to an attorney to have a will prepared that you know will be written properly, you should at least be aware of some common mistakes that you should avoid.

I recently came across a blog on findlaw.com that clearly describes 10 of the most common mistakes.  You should definitely read it so you don’t make the same mistakes my dad did.

For further information about wills, trusts, probate and end of life planning go to www.diesmart.com.

Why you need a living will & healthcare power of attorney

terri schiavo

Most people don’t like to think about what will happen if they’re in an accident or come down with a catastrophic illness.  They don’t decide who they want to speak for them if they are unable to communicate their wishes themselves.  They don’t tell anyone what kind of care they want….or don’t want.  Once they are hurt or incapacitated, it may be too late.

These are three reasons why you need a living will and a healthcare power of attorney:

1) You name the person you want to speak for you when you can’t.  It should be someone  you trust to make decisions on your behalf and to carry out your wishes.

2) You decide whether you want heroic measures performed to prolong your life if there’s no chance of recovery.

3) You outline the type of treatment you want to receive.

If you don’t have these documents, a relative you don’t know very well and don’t trust or possibly the courts will speak for you and decide what will happen.

For example, they may decide to put you on life support and prolong your life even though there is no chance of recovery and you may not have wanted heroic measures.  They may choose to perform a surgical procedure that you don’t want or they may decide to do something that is against your religious beliefs.

A living will enables you to describe the kind of care you want.

A healthcare power of attorney (It may be called something else in your state or it may be combined with a living will) allows you to name the person you want to be your healthcare agent who can speak for you when you can’t.

Unfortunately, a life threatening accident or a catastrophic illness can occur at any time.  There’s no age that is exempt.  Think of Terri Schiavo.  She was a 26 year-old that had a tragic fall, went into a coma and remained alive, hooked up to a feeding tube, in a vegetative state for more than 15 years because her husband and her parents couldn’t agree on her treatment and she hadn’t legally stated her wishes.

Don’t let others decide for you.  If you don’t have a living will and a healthcare power of attorney, get them drawn up right away so your wishes will be carried out and you will be able to speak for yourself….even when you really can’t.

For more information on this important subject, go to www.diesmart.com.

What is the most important part of estate planning?

When you do your estate planning, you probably think the most important part of this planning is your Living Will or your Last Will and Testament.  They are very important but they are not the most important thing.

I recently read an article by Julie Garber on about.com and she said the most important part is to select the right person to do each of the jobs your estate plan will require.”  After thinking about it, I agree.

When selecting a person to be your healthcare agent or guardian for your minor children or personal representative, be sure that this is a person who has your best interests at heart.  Also, verify that this person has the time as well as the skills to perform the needed tasks.  And, finally, select someone who you think can make wise decisions.

If you have name someone who declines to accept this position, and the backup person you’ve named also declines, a judge will make all of the decisions for you and your family or will find someone who is willing to do so; this person may not be someone you would have chosen and may not do things the way you would have wanted them done.

Think about it carefully and choose wisely.

For more information about estate planning, go to www.diesmart.com.