Imagine you suffer a catastrophic hiking accident. You're in a coma and can no longer communicate. Fortunately, you've set up a health care directive regarding the medical care you'd like to receive. The problem is, the doctor doesn't agree with your directive.
Does the doctor in such a circumstance need to follow the health care directive, no matter what? Or, can a doctor who disagrees with a health care directive choose to follow his or her conscience and disobey the directive?
Doctors don't always have to follow your health care directive
When North Carolina residents follow estate planning laws and guidelines when drafting their health care directives, there is nothing to worry about in terms of a doctor's compliance. In most situations, doctors will follow and adhere to a properly drafted and executed health care directive. However, the following circumstances could invalidate a health care directive and allow a doctor to bypass the directions contained therein:
- When the health care directive violates the good conscience of the doctor who is providing medical care, and/or when it violates the good conscience of the provider of medical services.
- When the health care directive violates the policies of a hospital or medical services provider.
- When the health care directive requires actions or inactions that would end in ineffective medical care; or, when the health care directive requires health care standards that violate the health care standards of the medical provider, institution or hospital.
When you doctor doesn't follow your health care directive
A doctor, medical center or hospital that refuses to follow your health care directive will need to inform your agent immediately. At this point, your agent will be able to take appropriate steps to (1) find a new doctor or (2) find a new medical facility that is willing to follow your health care directive.
Because there is always the potential that doctors will not follow an improperly drafted health care directive, it's important that estate planners draft these documents in a legally appropriate way that does not request or require an overly extreme medical policy.