Talking about one’s own death can be uncomfortable, but if we don’t plan ahead, our families may fall into serious legal battles over our body in a vegetative state, as happened in the Terry Schiavo case. To avoid this problem, states including Connecticut have developed laws that address the legal documents we can create to plan for our health care needs if we become incapacitated.
An “appointment of health care representative” is any document executed to appoint a health care agent or give someone durable power of attorney for health care matters for us. A different type of power of attorney can be created for financial and other matters. Finally, an “advance health care directive” means a writing that includes a living will, appointment of health care representative, or both.
|Code Sections||Connecticut General Statutes Chapter 368w: Removal of Life Support Systems|
|Specific Powers and Life-Prolonging Acts||A health care agent can consent, refuse to consent, or withdraw consent to any medical treatment for a patient, other than those designed only to maintain the patient’s physical comfort. However, these laws don’t apply to a pregnant patient, at least until the child is born or dies.|
|Legal Requirements for Durable Power of Attorney and Living Will
||Any person at least 18 years old can execute a legal power of attorney document by signing and dating it in the presence of two adult witnesses who also sign the document. The person appointed as the agent can’t sign as a witness.|
|Revocation of Advance Directives||A living will can be revoked at any time and in any manner. The health care agent is automatically revoked by divorce, legal separation, or annulment, unless the person who appointed the former spouse agent specifies otherwise.|
|Validity of Living Wills or Powers of Attorney Created in Other States||Out-of-state advance directives for health care are valid as long as they were validly created based on the laws in the state they were made or by Connecticut law, as long as they don’t contradict Connecticut public policy.|
|If Physician Unwilling to Follow Patient’s Requests||If the attending physician can’t comply with the patient’s wishes to remove life support, then he or she will as promptly as practical take all reasonable steps to transfer the patient to a doctor who can do what the patient wants.|
|Immunity for Attending Physician||A doctor who withholds or removes life-support system for an incapacitated patient won’t be civilly or criminally liable if decision was:
As uncomfortable as creating end-of-life planning documents can be, it’s a good idea and a gift to your family that survives you. If you’re ready to create your health care planning documents, contact an experienced Connecticut estate planning attorney.
Note: State laws change constantly, it’s important to contact a lawyer or conduct your own legal research to verify these laws.
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