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Advance Health Care Directives 101

What If My Healthcare Proxy's Decision Conflicts With The Instructions In My Living Will?

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It is possible that a decision about your healthcare by your Healthcare Proxy will conflict with instructions in your Living Will. While it is always possible that the two will give directly opposite instructions, more than likely it will occur due to your Living Will being unclear in the instructions or the circumstances surrounding your medical condition. It is also possible that your Healthcare Proxy may not have completely understood your wishes.

Obviously such a conflict could result in a lengthy delay in implementing your instructions while a court resolves the conflict.

If the matter goes before a court, the judge will weigh the wording of the Living Will and the reasoning of the Proxy. The judge will also look to other factors which may include the desires of family and relatives, which could include people you do not wish to be part of the process.

To avoid such a conflict and resulting delay, there are several steps you can take when drafting the documents:

  1. Check your state law and see if it permits a Living Will and Healthcare Power of Attorney to be merged into one document which can address the conflict issue should it arise. For instance, California permits such a merger.
  2. Even if combining the documents into one is not possible in your state, make clear in both documents your intent as to whether you want your Living Will or your Proxy to have the final power over the other.
  3. Work with an advisor or legal counsel to make sure your Living Will is clear in its instructions with as little ambiguity as possible.
  4. Spend time talking with your Proxy to make sure he or she has a clear idea of your desires and is familiar with the wording and the intent behind your Living Will instructions.

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