Enforceability Issues Related to Living Wills

Learn about enforceability issues related to living wills in this article. Then, give our New Jersey lawyer a call to get started today.

Enforceability of Person’s Wishes in Living Will in Question across the United States

Enforceability Issues Related to Living Wills

In a high profile case in Pennsylvania, the daughter of a terminally ill man has been hit with criminal charges after she handed him a bottle of morphine (at his request), which he proceeded to drink. The consumption of the morphine did not immediately cause his death—he died four days later after medical authorities attempted to reverse the effects of the morphine.

In addition to questions about assisted suicide and death with dignity, the case raises serious issues about whether or not the provisions of an advance directive of living will are valid. In this situation, the deceased was given treatment at the hospital that he specifically stated in an advance directive that he did not want. Witnesses say that when he came to in the emergency room, the deceased was angry that his wishes had not been followed, pulled out his IV and attempted to leave the hospital under his own power.

A representative of Compassion and Choices, a national advocacy group for end-of-life decisions, said that, as a matter of law and policy, a doctor, nurse or other health care provider cannot be required to engage in or refrain from engaging in certain actions based on what appears in an advance directive or living will. Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion and Choices, said that any actions taken by medical personnel must be pursuant to a medical order. She says that there are only two states that currently have laws in place designed to ensure that the provisions of an advance directive or living will will be honored by medical professionals.

New Jersey does not currently have a statute addressing the issue of death with dignity. The Assembly passed a bill in late 2014, but the state Senate has not yet acted. Governor Christie has promised to veto the bill if it passes.

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