Understanding Compliance with Health Care Documents: What You Need to Know

The Obligations of Medical Professionals Regarding Your End-of-Life Care Wishes

When you take the important step of articulating your desires for end-of-life care through legal documents such as a living will or advance directive, it’s natural to wonder to what extent medical professionals are bound by your decisions.

At James H. Wilson Law Firm, we want to assure you that health care providers are typically mandated by law to respect the instructions detailed in your health care documents and to recognize the authority of your appointed health care agent, given that your agent’s directives are within a reasonable interpretation of your intentions.

Nevertheless, there are circumstances in which a health care provider is permitted to decline adhering to the choices made by you or your health care proxy. These include cases where:

  • The health care decision conflicts with the personal moral beliefs of the individual health care provider
  • The health care decision contradicts a health care institution’s policy that stems from conscientious grounds
  • The prescribed health care is considered ineffective or at odds with the prevailing standards of care recognized by the provider or institution

In such scenarios, your advance directives are not disregarded. Should a health care provider choose not to fulfill your wishes or the directives given by your health care proxy, they are compelled to notify you or your agent with haste. Moreover, on your or your agent’s request, the provider must take immediate action to transfer your care to another medical professional or facility willing to comply with your instructions. Depending on the state, failure to abide by these regulations could result in the provider facing legal repercussions for damages.

The Impact of Pregnancy on Your Health Care Directives

Pregnancy is a unique circumstance that may lead to exceptions in how your health care directives are regarded. If pregnancy is a possibility for you, be sure to clarify your preferences should your health care documents become applicable during such a time.

The likelihood of physicians honoring your wishes in pregnancy varies based on numerous factors, such as the stage of pregnancy, potential risks to you and your unborn child, and the individual policies of physicians and medical facilities. Particularly during the second or third trimester, it is common for doctors to provide all necessary treatments to sustain both the mother’s and the fetus’s lives.

Additionally, many state legislations provide that doctors may not remove or deny life-preserving treatments to a pregnant woman or that such measures cannot be withdrawn if the fetus has the potential to reach full term.

The protection of your health care decisions is important, and the legal team at James H. Wilson Law Firm is here to ensure your wishes are understood and honored appropriately. If you have any queries or need assistance in drafting comprehensive health care documents, please reach out to us at 804.740.6464 for a personal consultation.

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