Physicians are obligated to follow the advanced care directives of their patients. Those who choose not to adhere to the requests of their patients can be held liable by the patient or surviving family members for the patient’s pain and suffering as well as additional expenses that result. Even as knowledge of the importance of these documents spread, it is estimated that less than 75% of individuals have included these critical documents in their medical files.
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Power of Attorney, Do Not Resuscitate, and Living Wills
These are the three most important end-of-life documents everyone needs to have. The Power of Attorney should clearly identify who is able to make financial and medical decisions regarding the patient’s care in the event they are incapacitated by illness or mental defect.
In addition to a Power of Attorney, it is crucial to have a “Do Not Resuscitate,” commonly referred to as a D.N.R. This directs physicians at which point the patient wishes aggressive medical care to cease. At that point, physicians are required to honor the patient’s wishes and provide only palliative care that is designed to minimize pain and ease the patient’s transition.
It is also important to meet with a Chicago medical malpractice attorney and draw up a living will. In conjunction with the D.N.R., the living will spells out which treatments are acceptable and which are not. This includes surgeries, the use of ventilation machines, as well as the administration of medications, pain relievers, hydration/feeding, etc. Under the Patient Self Determination Act, healthcare providers are required to provide patients information about advance directives and their rights under state law.
Closing the Loops
Miscommunication and poor documentation are common reasons that advanced care directives are ignored. Thus, it is critical for family member and caregivers to maintain copies of all documents related to end of life care. It is also imperative to verify that copies are included in the patient’s medical files and that their physicians, nurses, and other caregivers are aware of the patient’s wishes.
Physicians and other caregivers who willfully ignore a patient’s wishes as spelled out in their advanced care directives can be held liable for negligent care, battery, and the emotional, mental, physical, and financial tolls that failure to abide by the patient’s wishes can create.