Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Daughter Fights To Save Her Father's Life

TrustsIn a case of advance directives gone wrong, Susan Rissman is in a losing battle with her sister Judith Sly over control of their 88-year-old father's health care decisions. Their father Paul G. Smith, who is gravely ill from a number of terminal illnesses, was removed from a ventilator and his feeding tube pursuant to an advance directive he wrote in 2004. In that advance directive, Smith states that "he doesn't want his life prolonged by artificial means." It also appointed Sly to be his health-care representative. The problem emerged because Rissman, who has been Smith's health care provider for the past few years, claims that Smith is still capable of making his own health care decisions and has asked for food and water. Rissman's attorney even argued that "Smith had attempted to change his health-care representative" to Rissman. Judge Steven Nation from the Hamilton Superior Court disagreed with Rissman, claiming that there was not enough evidence to hold that Smith intended to revoke his advance directive or that he intended to appoint Rissman as his health-care representative.

Stories like this remind us that it is important to ensure your advance directive and health-care declaration reflect your current desires. These documents exist to ensure that not only are your wishes are carried out but also that your family members do not have to fight each other at a time when it is already difficult for them.

See Tim Evans, Daughter Vows To Fight On For Her Gravely Ill Carmel Father, Indianapolis Star, Jan. 17, 2013.

Special thanks to Sean J. Fahey (Hall Render Killian Heath & Lyman, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.


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Thank you for posting this interesting case. The revocation of advance directive is a thorny issue it appears. In Illinois such a directive may be revoked by act, word or written instrument. If done in any other manner other than a written instrument seems to be an invitation to trouble.

Posted by: brian j. cohan | Jan 17, 2013 12:03:14 PM

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