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Wife Cannot Block Enforcement of Husband's Living Will

  • December 7th, 2004

A Florida judge has ruled that a wife who holds her husband's health care power of attorney cannot stop a hospital from enforcing the wishes the husband expressed in his living will.

In 1998, Hanford Pinette, now 73, executed a living in which he stated that if he were in a terminal condition with no probability of recovery, he would want "to die naturally" and receive medication only to "alleviate pain." At the same time, Mr. Pinette gave his wife, Alice, durable power of attorney over his affairs, including decisions on health care. (See "Florida Case Pits Living Will Against Medical Power of Attorney," ElderLawAnswers, Nov. 21, 2004.)

Now Mr. Pinette is in an Orlando hospital hooked up to life-support machines. The hospital said that Mr. Pinette cannot recover and sought to fulfill the wishes he had expressed in his living will by withdrawing life support. But Mrs. Pinette insisted that her husband of 53 years was far better off than the hospital believed and tried to stop the hospital.

Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Kirkwood ruled November 23 that the living will must be upheld. Otherwise, the judge said, those with power of attorney could impose their wishes on the incapacitated. Mrs. Pinette is considering an appeal.

For a Washington Post article on the ruling, go to: www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A9017-2004Nov23.html (Article may no longer be available.)

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Last Modified: 12/07/2004

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