Daughter Ignores Dad’s Advanced Directives

Five weeks ago, Paul G. Smith was supposed to die.  Physicians from a Catholic based Indianapolis hospital gave the retired attorney about a day after his breathing and feeding tubes were removed.  However, Mr. Smith still lives and is still in the middle of a gut-wrenching battle between his family members for the control of his care

Paul Smith was a well-respected attorney and magistrate who carefully outlined his wishes in 2004.  Unfortunately, his wishes were put to the test when his daughter, Susan Rissman, challenged hospital officials who were following Smith’s living will directives.  Rissman had been her father’s local caregiver for many years.  However, Smith’s other daughter, Judith Sly, has legal control over their father’s medical care and finances.  Rissman challenged his living will as well as his care at the hospital in a county court.  However, the court ruled that Mr. Smith is receiving care that is consistent with his advance directives.

Your wishes

This story is a sad ending for a respected attorney in the community.

However, it is an excellent example of how important it is to have a family conversation about what should happen if there is a terminal diagnosis.

Family tension is not unusual.  Sometimes, the living will can be confusing or difficult to understand when the details of a terminal illness arise. If there is a need to withdraw food and water as a part of the directives, some family member may question whether it will ease discomfort, keep a loved one alive or hasten death by choking.  As you can see, preparing for your final days is a complicated process that should be discussed and documented with your family and attorney.

What is the first step for advance directives?

Advance directives can cover many important points.  The directives can outline living will declarations, life-prolonging procedures declarations, and do-not-resuscitate declarations.  The document may also cover organ and tissue donation as well as psychiatric care.

Helpful link

The Caring Connection website of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization has forms you can download for living wills, power of attorney for health care, and health-care proxies for every state. http://www.caringinfo.org


About the author

I am passionate about sharing senior citizen news and resources discovered from both my profession and personal journey.

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