After all the choices you have to make in setting up your Living Will, you then have a choice whether to allow your agents under your medical power of attorney to have the authority to override your decisions. Isn’t that great? Here we have a document and a process requiring you to make life and death choices if you are in the direst of circumstances, but then you get to choose whether someone else can choose for you! So, what’s the best choice?
As a threshold matter, my advice is to always go into the decision making process on a Living Will with the mindset that these are your decisions and for no one else to decide. Still, with that in mind, there may be good reasons to allow or not allow your agent(s) under your medical power of attorney to have the authority to override your decisions on the Living Will.
Generally, most people who opt to give their agents the authority to override do so because their agents will naturally be able to see and hear what they cannot. So, if their agent sees or hears something they believe means life support should be extended or shortened, then they have the authority to do so.
On one hand, the decision not to allow a person’s agent to override their decisions is to spare their agent the mental and/or emotional toll of having the ability to second guess the client. A client, who is also a therapist, recently told me that a large portion of her clients are in therapy primarily because of the trauma they suffered while being in a position to make the life or death decision for a family member.
On the other hand, the decision not to allow a person’s agent to override their decisions on the Living Will is to preserve family harmony. Especially when clients choose to name their adult children as their agents under the medical powers of attorney, I advise my clients to never allow their children the authority to override for two reasons. First, of course, I always advise clients of the potential mental/emotional toll of having the authority override. Second, and more practically, my experience is that when a child who is the medical power of attorney chooses to deviate from a client’s wishes on their Living Will their siblings, who did not have input or the choice, will inevitably find their decision to be the wrong decision, no matter what it was. And, that is when all of the other estate planning starts to unravel.
So, to preserve harmony within the family, the better choice is often to choose to make your decisions prevail over anyone else’s. But, again, that decision is ultimately up to you, and the right choice is what is best for you and your family.