Can Life Support Be Withheld If A Patient Has Not Signed A Directive To Physicians?
Most Americans have not executed basic estate planning documents. Studies show that more than half of Americans have not executed a basic will. Even fewer have executed durable powers of attorney and medical powers of attorney, and directive to physicians.
So, what happens if someone suffers a catastrophic injury or illness and is on life support? Can anyone make a determination to withhold life support if the patient has not signed a directive to physicians?
In Texas, an agent under a medical power of attorney can decide to withhold life support if the patient has not signed a directive to physicians. If the patient has not signed a medical power of attorney, the following individuals, in order of priority, can decide:
- Adult children
- Nearest living relatives
- A court-appointed guardian
A directive to physicians gives Texans the ability to share under what circumstances they would like life-sustaining treatment to be administered or withheld. Doing so alleviates the emotional burden those making a decision may feel without knowing the patient’s wishes. However, the lack of such a document does not create a presumption that the patient opposes a decision to withhold life-sustaining treatment.