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Finally, Legal Recourse When Doctors Ignore End-of-Life Directives

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How would you feel if you spent time and money creating your estate plan including a living will and health care directive only to have doctors and hospital ignore your legal end-of-life wishes? You would likely feel very much the way Elaine Greenberg did when her husband’s end-of-life legal directives were blatantly ignored by the doctors and the hospital in Westchester County New York. She was angry because her husband suffered intensely for 30 long days instead of being kept comfortable and allowed to pass within a few days.

Fortunately, the doctors and hospital are being held accountable. This is a first and a very important one to set a precedent for any future events featuring such a violation. The sad truth is that doctors and hospitals around the country routinely ignore health care directives with no recourse for the families.

Lower Court’s Decision Overturned

Here’s what happened with this case as reported by a local paper in Westchester County. The Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s decision that stated, “a dying Westchester County man did not suffer any damages by being kept alive for 30 days at Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital when doctors refused to follow his living will or his wife’s legal requests as his health care proxy.”’

According to the article, “When the lower court dismissed the case, the Greenbergs appealed, and Compassion & Choices submitted a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Stacey Gibson, a Garrison, New York, resident who has executed her own advance care planning documents and wants those documents enforced if or when necessary; and of Jennifer Friedlin, a Brooklyn resident who was a designated proxy for her father with advanced Alzheimer’s and whose advance care planning documents were disregarded by hospital staff at the end of his life.”

Officials at Compassion & Choices, a national nonprofit dedicated to expanding and empowering options at the end of life such as medical aid in dying stated, “This reversal, issued March 31, marks the first time doctors and a hospital are being held accountable for ignoring or violating the documents that many people fill out and depend on — and that’s critical for ensuring that a person’s wishes are respected. Put simply, if people can sue for damages when healthcare providers and hospitals ignore do-not-resuscitate orders and living wills, those providers will be far more likely to follow them,” the nonprofit said in the amicus brief.https://patch.com/new-york/southeast/hudson-valley-activist-relieved-ruling-death-dignity-suit?fbclid=IwAR0XryTR2JgewYhLaLIMJDyWYUpw61RYAcT3yqBtMNXX-M8e5pqSaAiw0hI

The Legal Right To Refuse Treatment When That Refusal May Result In Death

Every competent adult has the legal right to refuse medical treatment even when that refusal may result in death. This is the purpose for creating and crafting an advance directive. Discussing end-of-life decisions with loved ones in the prime of life isn’t an easy thing to do, but it is an important decision to make if, as often happens, you end up the way of Mr. Greenberg. As his wife said, “He died at 68 of a progressive neurological disease which spanned the course of 8 years. His life was glorious. His death was not”. Mrs. Greenberg went on to say, “I promised him I would ensure that no one in New York will have to suffer the way he did without an option over their end-of-life choices. I have been advocating for medical aid in dying since his passing.”

Hopefully, no one in any state in this country will have to suffer the way Mr. Greenberg and so many others have because of the efforts of Mrs. Greenberg, Mrs. Gibson, Compassion and Choices and so many others.

If Your Medical Directives Has Been Ignored

It is now clear that medical professionals have no legal ground to stand on when ignoring legal medical directives. If you have a loved one who was denied this legal right and you have legal documents, it may not be too late to hold those parties accountable.

If you would like to begin the process of establishing an estate plan, living will and medical directive, give our office a call. We strongly encourage everyone to take this important step while fully competent. We never know what life has in store for us and the more well prepared we are for every eventuality, the less our loved ones will suffer.

   

Looking to find an experienced estate lawyer in the Georgia area who is skilled in asset protection and estate plan preparation? Shannon Pawley is an attorney in Georgia with expertise in estate planning and asset protection. Shannon can provide assistance with creating an estate plan to include making a will and how to establish a trust properly. If you have questions about asset protection or questions about making an estate plan, reach out to Shannon and she will be glad to help answer all the estate planning questions you might have!

 
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