Two documents you need now to plan ahead for end-of-life health care


Advance directive and medical power of attorney documents help guide health care decisions and protect against hospital committees

July 6, 2017

The case of Charlie Gard has revived the end-of-life health care debate that has been going on since death panels were first mentioned a decade again. In case you do not recognize Charlie’s name, he is an infant in a London hospital whose parents want to bring him to the United States to receive experimental treatment. British courts are standing in the way, though.

Setting aside the ethical issues of allowing a court or death panel to make health care treatment decisions instead of a patient or her family, planning ahead is an important concern when it comes to end-of-life care, as well as senior care more generally.

Painter Law Firm’s experienced medical malpractice attorneys recommend that everyone have in place two legal documents related to health care: (1) an advance directive; and (2) a medical power of attorney. If you need these documents, call us at 281-580-8800 for details on how we can advise and assist you in getting them prepared, along with other legal documents that you may need, like a durable (financial) power of attorney and will.

Advance directive

An advance directive is a legal document that details the care that you want to be provided, or withheld, in the event that you are in an end-of-life, terminal, or vegetative state situation.

The time to think about the extent of health care that you would like receive in an end-of-life or terminal situation is now—that is, before you find yourself in that situation. It certainly takes a lot of stress off family members who may otherwise be thrust into the position of making difficult decisions.

In addition, most doctors, nurses, and facility administrators consider the patient’s written advance directive of health care wishes to be important. If you are not in a position to tell your health providers what level of care you would like to receive, and you do not have a written advance directive, then they will often revert back to relying on a number of factors to try and make the best guess of what you might want.

Research has shown that the level of intensity that patients desire for end-of-life care varies by sex, religion, and part of the country, for example. A recent Mayo Clinic study expanded these variables even further, to include occupation. It turns out that teachers, homemakers, farmers, and clergy typically desire significantly less aggressive end-of-life care than the general population.

Medical power of attorney

A medical power of attorney designates one or more trusted individuals who can make treatment decisions for you in the event that you are incapacitated and unable to do so.

I recommend that you have a talk with your medical power of attorney agents about the health care and treatment decisions that you would like them to make or advocate for you under different circumstances.

When a patient has an advance directive and medical power of attorney in place, and has discusses treatment issues with his medical power of attorney agents in advance, I have found that these legal documents work hand-in-hand as persuasive tools in the interaction with health care providers.

We are here to help

Unfortunately, I have seen a number of instances when Houston, Texas doctors and hospital administrators have aggressively resisted advance directives, medical power of attorney agents, and family wishes. Almost without fail, this happened after an incident of serious medical malpractice, and under the guise of medical futility and the Texas death panel statute, the Advance Directives Act of 1999.

If you need legal representation and advice in drafting an advance directive and medical power of attorney, or in a situation when a doctor or hospital is ignoring these important legal documents, we are help. Painter Law Firm’s medical malpractice lawyers are also experienced in investigating and pursuing all kinds of medical malpractice cases. Call our Houston, Texas office at 281-580-8800, for a free consultation.


Attorney Robert Painter handles medical malpractice and negligence cases at Painter Law Firm, in Houston, Texas. With a background in hospital administration, Robert Painter knows how health care works and is not afraid to represent clients against even the largest hospitals. He has a special interest in medical futility and hospital ethics committee proceedings, and has represented dozens of families at proceedings where doctors and hospitals wanted to stop providing care, food, and water to patients, which would lead to their death.

Robert Painter

Robert Painter is a medical malpractice lawyer at Painter Law Firm PLLC.


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