As a senior citizen, do I have the right to refuse to consent to medical treatment?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Every adult who is competent to make personal decisions has the right to refuse medical treatment. It doesn’t matter how old you are. Being competent means that you can understand the pros and cons of various treatment options and are aware that refusing treatment may result in further injury or death. You have a right to make that choice.

You can also make medical decisions for your future, even if you should become unable to make your own choices at some later time. For example, you can sign a living will where you state your wishes about the use of any form of life support services if something should happen that made you unable to survive without life support. You can ask that life support be withheld, removed, or provided for as long as possible. Some people don’t want life support, and others want every chance they can get. It’s up to you, and your wishes will be honored if you let your health care providers know what you want.

If you don’t want to make those decisions in advance, but want to choose the person who will make those decisions for you, you have another option. You can sign an advance health care directive (also called a durable power of attorney for health care), in which you set out how you want your heath care to be handled if you should be unable to make choices for yourself or name someone to act as your representative who you trust to carry out your wishes. You can also name alternates to be your representatives if your first choice can’t do it for any reason (i.e. if he or she is ill or injured at the same time you are). In this way, with some simple planning, you can be assured of making the most important health care decisions for yourself for the rest of your life.

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