Revocation of Healthcare Directives and Alternatives


If you execute a healthcare power of attorney document and a living will, you can revoke or cancel them at any time. Most states do not require you to revoke the documents in writing. Be aware that if you have told your healthcare provider about your documents, many states require that you inform the healthcare provider of the revocation. It is also important to inform those who know about your documents that you have revoked them, especially a medical proxy if you have named one. Make sure that all people who have copies of your documents return them to you to be destroyed.



Of course, you may feel that you would like to have life-sustaining care for a limited but specific time and that if that time elapses without medical improvement, you would like to direct that you be allowed to die naturally without medical intervention. Because such wishes require a subjective judgment to assess medical improvement and to impose time limits in treatment, they do not fit easily on standard healthcare directives. In such a situation, you should give complete discretion to your medical proxy and thoroughly discuss your wishes with her.

If you want to place time limits on the medical treatments that may be given to you and you do not know a person you can trust to name as your medical proxy, standard healthcare directives may not work for you. In such cases, you should discuss your thoughts with medical personnel and then visit a lawyer to help draft a specialized durable power of attorney for healthcare.

There is no replacement for discussing your medical care wishes with the medical personnel who will be likely to provide your care. Of course, this may be a difficult task due to time constraints or not having a personal physician. However, if you do have a regular doctor or if you are approaching surgery and have been assigned to a specialist, talk over your directive with them. You should also discuss any subjective concerns you have about your medical condition such as the effects of certain procedures or the likelihood of continuing certain life activities.

It is also best to discuss your healthcare directives and other healthcare concerns with loved ones who are likely to supervise or witness your care. This may also be a difficult task. Still, you may find the effort of discussing what kind of medical care you want if incapacitated worth the price.

Although healthcare directives are a straightforward expression of wishes about medical care and provide the most effective way to convey your thoughts to the medical personnel that will ultimately provide your care, they may not reach the core of your concerns. Worries about quality of life, money available for your care, dying with dignity, or the welfare of your caretakers may not fit within your healthcare directives. If you have such worries, you can write them in a letter that you attach to your healthcare directives and you can update this letter as needed. If possible, you should talk over these thoughts with your doctors and loved ones.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.