How to Revoke a Health Care Directive
You may have had very specific and very definite ideas when you drafted your living will, medical power of attorney, DNR order and / or advanced health care directive. You may have taken the time to carefully consider all of the content and to make sure that each document was executed according to the procedures required by state law. Then something may have changed. Perhaps you faced a life threatening illness or injury that changed your point of view. Maybe you no longer speak with the person you appointed as your medical power of attorney or maybe you have seen a loved one suffer after heroic measures were taken that only extended his or her life by a short amount of time.
No matter what the reason for your change of heart, it is important that you revoke your legal documents correctly and execute new documents if you so desire.
If you decide to revoke one or more of your health care documents then it is important to take the following steps:
1. Follow all revocation requirements that are legally required in the jurisdiction where you executed the documents. This can usually be done in one of three ways. You can rip up the document so it is as if the document never existed, you can write out your revocation and have it witnessed and executed or, if you are able to do so, you can verbally direct your health care provider to do something different than what is in your document.
2. Make sure that all of your documents are consistent. Often estate planning and health documents are redundant. For example, you may have something included in both an advanced health care directive and a DNR order. In order to make sure that your revised wishes are respected it is important that you revise or revoke both documents so that your plan is consistent and easy for medical professionals to understand and follow.
3. Make sure that you execute new documents. It may be important for you to execute new documents once you revoke ones that are no longer consistent with your wishes. For example, just because you no longer want your ex-spouse to be your medical power of attorney that does not mean that you do not want anyone to fill that role. You may wish to execute a new medical power of attorney naming a sibling or friend as the power of attorney.
In some cases your living will may be automatically revoked. For example, state law may require that a pregnant woman be kept on life support until the fetus can safely be delivered even though the woman has a living will that expressly prohibits the use of life support. Some states also automatically revoke a medical power of attorney upon divorce if the ex-spouse was appointed as the power of attorney. Of course, the death of the person whom you appoint as a power of attorney would also be cause for automatic revocation.
Generally, we execute our health care directives, living wills, DNA orders and medical powers of attorney with the expectation that those documents will remain in force for the rest of our lives. However, sometimes circumstances change and it is important to legally revoke those documents and execute new documents that are consistent with your wishes.