Estate Planning

FAQs About Powers of Attorney and Directives

Can Life Support Be Withheld If A Patient Has Not Signed A Directive To Physicians?

by Rania Combs

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:

  1. Spouse
  2. Adult children
  3. Parents
  4. Nearest living relatives
  5. 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.

About Rania

Rania graduated magna cum laude from South Texas College of Law Houston and is the founder of Rania Combs Law, PLLC. She has been licensed to practice law since 1994 and enjoys helping clients in Texas and North Carolina create estate plans that give them peace of mind.

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