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Cancer patient’s court battle shows importance of care planning

The court battle between a terminally ill brain cancer patient and her family has come to a close, as her father has chosen to drop his challenge to her wish to remove life support. The patient allegedly made a request to her doctors and through her court-appointed attorney to have breathing and feeding tubes removed, but her father challenged the hospital’s right to honor that request, arguing that his daughter was not mentally competent at the time.

An appeals court ruled in favor of the patient’s request and the father continued to challenge the decision. However, he withdrew his latest appeal after his daughter agreed to remain on life support.

The decision to stop using breathing and feeding tubes is an incredibly controversial one and brings up major religious and medical ethics questions. Particularly as an illness progresses, family, friends, trusted advisors, and healthcare providers may all struggle to determine the true nature of the patient’s wishes for the end of their life. In cases where mental competency is an issue, a patient may rush to make a decision known before they are declared incompetent, but could, as in this case, change their mind later on.

These scenarios are more common than most Texas readers probably realize, and offer more than one reason why it’s important to engage in comprehensive care planning and provide doctors and family members with detailed medical directives.

Comprehensive care planning also involves making decisions and providing for a situation in which one becomes disabled and requires long-term specialized medical care. In addition to recording preferences for care, it is also important to figure out how to pay for the care that is needed and to apply for relevant government or other healthcare benefits if necessary.

Source: New York Daily News, “Brain-cancer patient’s father drops court bid to be named her guardian,” Erica Pearson, Oct. 9, 2012

Our Houston law firm assists clients with a care planning and other elements of estate planning. More information can be found on our website.