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The Law Office of Kevin Hancock > News > Living Wills > Living Wills: Part 2 – When to remove Life Support?

Living Wills: Part 2 – When to remove Life Support?

When Should You Remove Life Support?

The primary question to be answered when setting up a Living Will (a.k.a. the Advance Directive, End of Life Directive) is whether and how long do you want to remain on life support? 

Your two options are to have life support continued indefinitely, to have life support removed immediately, or to have life support removed after a period of time. 

The purpose of this blog is to explore the most common reasons and thoughts for each. 

1. Continue Life Support Indefinitely

While it might seem counterintuitive, the least common choice, in my experience, is for clients to want continue life support indefinitely.  Yes, we do occasionally have clients who choose this option, but they are few and far between.  The most common reason for choosing this option is giving a person as much opportunity as possible to recover.  Conversely, the most common reason for not choosing this option is the futility of continuing life support indefinitely.  In particular, most people understand even if they do recover from the conditions/circumstances that put then on life support and in a “Persistent Vegetative State” or “Terminal Condition” in the first place, their quality of life after any measure of recovery is very likely to be limited, if not completely impaired.  Also, most people do not want their families to suffer through the difficulties and expense of maintaining life sustaining procedures over a long period of time.  Thus, more clients choose the option of having live support removed immediately or after a period of time.

2. Removing Life Support Immediately

The most common reason for people to choose the option to remove life support immediately is to avoid prolonging their own pain and suffering as well as of that of their family.  They understand the likelihood of recovery is very slim, and even if they do recover, they understand that their quality of life is likely to be impaired and/or very limited.  But, of everyone who wishes to have life support removed immediately, I always ask the following question: 

If you are in one of those rare circumstances where you are fine one hour but you are in a “Persistent Vegetative State” or “Terminal Condition” the next hour, understanding that is rare because it usually takes several days for the doctors to make their determination/certification, is everyone you want to be available to be with you immediately available?

In response to that, most people recognize they do have family and/or friends they would want to be with them in such circumstances and those people are not always in the same city, state or even country to be able to be immediately available.  As a result, if a client wants their family and/or friends to have time make plans and travel to be with them, then they usually choose to have life support removed after a period of time. 

Thus, the most common choice for when to remove life support is after a period of time, and the most common reason is to allow family and/or friends a period of time to travel be available.  When that is the main reason, we generally see clients choose a period of time between 3 to 7 days.  However, another common reason for choosing a period of time to remove life support is giving time for the doctors to be proven right or wrong.

Remember, the determination of being in a “Persistent Vegetative State” or “Terminal Condition” must be made by two doctors, and while based on objective medical testing, that determination is, ultimately, a subjective opinion.  While rare, people do come out of those conditions, come off of life support and resume normal lives.  Therefore, some people want to allow additional time on life support in the hopes their bodies just need time to heal and/or recover.  In those cases, we see clients most typically choose a timeframe between 7 to 30 days. 

Regardless of the reason, the appropriate timeframe for removal of life support for yourself is the timeframe you choose.  In other words, there is no right or wrong answer, only options.  The most important thing in making this decision for whether and/or when to remove life support, however, is knowing and understanding why your choice makes sense for you and your family. 

If you need more guidance in Colorado Springs, contact The Law Office of Kevin Hancock today.