Determining the Validity of Advance Directives
Posted: 27 Jun 2000
Date Written: 2000
A physician attending an incompetent patient with an acute life-threatening illness and an advance directive (AD) refusing treatment, should ensure that the AD is legally valid prior to making their treatment decision. Treatment against a patient's wishes as expressed in a valid AD compromises patient autonomy and may constitute battery. Conversely, withholding treatment in accordance with an AD that is not legally valid risks substantial harm to the patient and may constitute breach of the duty of care and negligence.
Legally valid directives should be respected. If the AD is not legally valid the patient should be treated in their best interests. If uncertain, the physician should treat according to best interests whilst seeking legal advice. We examine the ethical principles underpinning ADs and the legal duties of doctors in determining their validity.
JEL Classification: K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation