When can doctors ignore a health care directive?

Your health care directive will clearly state the wishes you have for your medical care in the even that you become incapacitated. In the majority of cases, medical providers and doctors must follow the terms you have laid out in this legal document. Doctors must also follow the orders of the individual you named to serve as the agent in charge of your health care, in most cases.

Nevertheless, there are certain situations in which medical providers do not have to follow your directive.

Situations when doctors could go against your directive

Here are the most common situations in which doctors can ignore your health care directive:

  • Your directive goes against the doctor or medical provider's consciences.
  • Your directive conflicts with the policies of the medical institution or hospital due to reasons of conscience.
  • Your directive includes demands that would cause poor care or standards of care that violate the standards implemented by the health care provider, medical institution or hospital.

Due to these possible reasons that could result in a doctor ignoring your health care wishes, it's important to draft your plan in a way that does not violate standard medical procedure.

Doctors must always inform your agent when they plan to ignore your directive

Just because one of the above situations presents itself does not mean that a doctor can immediately go against your health care directive. Your doctor must first consult with the agent named in your directive and inform him or her of the conflict.

Your agent can then decide whether it makes sense to find a new doctor or medical facility to administer your care. A doctor who simply goes against your directive without giving your agent notice could be liable for the results.

Write your health care directive in accordance with the law

To prevent the chance of a doctor ignoring your health care directive, make sure you write your directive in accordance with the law. Also, choose your health care agent with care to ensure that if a problem develops, he or she will navigate the challenge in a way that honors your wishes.

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