Is There a Duty to Follow Health Care Directives?

The purpose of Health Care Directives is to give you the opportunity to specify beforehand your preferences regarding health care decisions in the event that you are no longer able to express them in a medical emergency. Up to what extent is the duty of your health care providers in following your health care directives?

Duty to Follow Health Care Directives

Generally, health care providers are required to strictly adhere to the recorded living will or health care directive should the person who made the will or directive become incapacitated. If there is an appointed legal agent on your health care directive or living will, then the medical providers, including doctors, nurses, etc., have the duty to enforce the orders of your health care agent regarding your care.

Exceptions

But there may be some instances when your doctor or health care provider will be allowed to not heed your wishes as you have put in your health care directives under any of the following conditions:

  • If the directive goes against the conscience of the health care provider;
  • If following the directives would mean setting a policy that is against the policies of the hospital based on conscience; or
  • If the directives would involve making decisions that would lead to ineffective healthcare, or require of the health care providers to adhere to health care standards that violate the standards of that provider, the hospital, or other medical institution.

But even if such situations are present, it does not always mean that the doctor or health care provider could just go against your health care directives or ignore it. The doctor or health care provider should immediately inform you or your agent if they have reason to believe that they will not follow your wishes or the directions of your health care agent. In this case, you or your health care agent have the option to be transferred to another doctor or another medical facility where your directives would be honored. If the doctor or health care provider still refuses your transfer and at the same time continues to go against your directives, then they may be liable for damages.

Pregnancy and your Health Care Directives

Doctors and health care providers may legally ignore your directives if you are pregnant.  You may order a directive specifically for when you are pregnant, but if your life and the fetus’ life is at stake, then the doctors may override your wishes in order to save you and the child. This may happen most especially if you are on you second or last trimester.

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