Living wills are, quite literally, a matter of life and death. They are also fairly common documents, which means doctors and surgeons should know how to interpret them. Yet a recent study has determined that, much of the time, they interpret these documents incorrectly. Besides having the wishes expressed in their living will violated, what might this mean for patients and their families? The following explains.
A Closer Look at the Study
Published in the Journal of Patient Safety, the recent study asked 741 physicians from 13 different hospitals to detail how they would treat nine different patients with varying degrees of cardiopulmonary distress, based on what they understood from the patients’ living wills. They only reached a consensus (defined as agreement of 95 percent or higher) in two out of the nine scenarios. If they viewed a one-minute video that expressed each patient’s wishes, along with reading the living will, they reached a 94 percent agreement on a third patient.
What was most disturbing about this is that, out of those remaining cases, many doctors got the answer wrong. Some would have given too much treatment to a patient who did not want specific life-saving procedures and practices. Others would have given too little treatment, potentially placing the patient at risk for death when they wanted life-saving practices and procedures. The implications of either are concerning, to say the least.
What Happens When Doctors Misinterpret Living Wills
Patients who have a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) in place typically have one for a particular reason. Perhaps they simply do not want to risk the chances of being left in a vegetative state, or making their families decide when to pull the plug. Others may have chronic and debilitating conditions that are eroding their health.
In contrast, patients who want certain life-saving procedures and practices have reasons for wanting to live. Maybe they have children, or are simply okay with certain practices but not others. They can express these specific wishes through their living will. Yet, if they are not interpreted correctly, patients and their families may experience a wrongful death, or a situation where they are revived and forced to live in a way they might not wanted (i.e. being in a comatose state or on life support). Both situations could pave the way for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Contact Our Barrington Medical Malpractice Lawyers
If you or someone you love has experienced wrongful death or improper treatment, despite having a living will in place, the experienced Barrington medical malpractice attorneys at Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC can help. Dedicated and experienced, we will fight for the most compensation possible in your case. Learn more by calling 847-934-6000 today.
About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.