Could your hospital kill you by deciding that you are too sick and should have treatment withheld? Quite possibly. The Teri Schiavo story showed the importance of expressing your wishes and doing a Living Will, if that is your choice. The case of Hanford Pinette shows, at times a Living Will may conflict with the person you designate to make health care decisions for you.
In many ways, Hanford Pinette was a very typical American. He was a Korean War veteran and a government engineer. When he reached retirement age, he moved from the northeast to Florida. A few years later, in 1998, he signed a Living Will and a Designation of Health Care Surrogate. The Living Will specified that if he became unable to decide for himself and he were in a terminal condition, he did not want to be kept alive through extraordinary means. The Designation of Health Care Surrogate appointed his wife, Alice Pinette, to make health care decisions for him when he became unable to do so.
Unfortunately, Hanford’s health declined and he was admitted to Lucerne Hospital in Orlando, Florida. He required a lung machine and kidney dialysis to live. Two physicians determined that he was terminal and that, under the terms of his Living Will, the machines should be disconnected. They reasoned that he was terminal because it was expected he would never be weaned from the machines. Alice disagreed and asserted that many people, such as Christopher Reeve, live years of quality life with the assistance of machines. The hospital brought the matter to court and, won. The hospital removed the machines and Hanford died almost immediately.
If Hanford had wanted to do so, he could have specifically stated that, in the event of a question, the health care agent could override his Living Will. If he had done so, Alice could have overridden the Living Will and sustained his life. It is vital to consider which document should have priority. Your health care agent may be hesitant to give up hope and allow your death, even under circumstances where it might be what you want. This underscores the importance of choosing someone as health care agent who can make this decision as you would want.
An estate planning attorney can help you make this very difficult and yet critical decision. The estate planning attorney can make your Living Will effective regardless of your agent’s wishes or can draft the documents to allow your agent to override the Living Will. contact us today to schedule your free one-hour personal consultation.
Compliments of the McGee Law Firm, Attorney Brandon McGee
Written By: The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys