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Can a Family Override a Living Will?

There is a reason why a living will in Denver is such an important legal document: it cannot be changed by anyone other than the person who writes it.

If you have prepared a living will, this means you have stated in writing what type of medical care you want administered if you become incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. If you should fall into a coma, suffer from dementia, become seriously injured, have a terminal condition, enter into a persistent vegetative state, etc., this prepared document would go into effect. Within this document, you can outline things such as:

  • Which types of life-sustaining procedures you want to have performed (or which ones you do not want administered);
    • CPR
    • Artificial nutrition/hydration with feeding tubes
    • Mechanical breathing assistance with a ventilator
  • How long you want these procedures to continue;
  • Who you want to enforce these decisions (medical power of attorney); and
  • If you want to donate organs or tissues upon your death.

What if Your Family Doesn’t Agree?

It is not uncommon for family members to want something different for their loved ones than what is outlined in the living will. They may try to contest the living will and try to have doctors perform life-sustaining treatments that you do not want. The living will is one way to safeguard your wishes and try to protect your family from making these hard decisions for you during very emotional times. Unless you explicitly authorize them to override your wishes outlined in your living will, your family cannot change your decisions. your family does not have the power to change your living will.

Doctors are not required to follow the wishes outlined in the living will, but most will do so if they are made aware of the document. However, if the doctor feels there is an ethical obligation to provide a certain level of treatment, your wishes may be overridden.

One way to prevent your living will from being contested by your family or overridden by your doctor is to discuss your wishes with all of these individuals while you are still healthy and able to do so. An open line of communication about these uncomfortable topics may save your family from heartache down the line.

What if You Change Your Mind?

As the creator of your living will, you do have the ability to change your preferences. You may decide to name a different person to act as your agent under medical power of attorney or you may have a change of heart and decide that you would want a life-sustaining procedure performed after all.

Creating a living will is one of those activities that is important but can also be extremely difficult – both mentally and legally – to complete. Before you create your living will, it is recommended that you discuss the various options with your doctor, family members and even an experienced living will lawyer in Denver. There may be some aspects that you have overlooked or situations that you may not have considered.

The lawyers at The Brown Law Firm, LLC can help you navigate the living will process so it is done correctly. If you would like help creating a living will in Denver, please contact us at (303) 339-3750 or send us a message online.

Hopefully your advanced directive will become a document that is never needed but at least you will have peace of mind knowing that your loved ones are protected from having to make unbearable decisions for you.