McCoy Fatula, APCMcCoy
Located in Roseville, CA

Estate planning, advanced directives and doctor errors

What does estate planning have to do with emergency room doctors? Given the fact that many plans include living wills (otherwise referred to as advanced directives) there is a strong connection between such documents and emergency room physicians. Doctors in California and elsewhere are often called upon to quickly interpret these estate planning directives when patients arrive in need of urgent care.

A recent study was conducted, however, that produced results many found quite concerning. The exercise asked more than 700 physicians to interpret various advanced directive documents. Those who conducted the study said a 95 percent agreement was achieved in only two cases.

One physician said he made it his own mission, years ago, to learn more about living wills and how to interpret such documents when he almost made a terrible error in connection with a particular case. At the time, he thought an advanced directive said not to resuscitate the patient. Thankfully, a colleague corrected his error, and he ordered a shock to the heart of the patient just in time.

Doctors appear to have an easier time interpreting advanced directives when videos accompany the documents that include patients verbally stating their own wishes. The study seems to emphasize the importance of careful estate planning in that terminology and text within a living will may be crucial in a life or death situation. It follows that anyone considering executing an advanced directive as part of an estate plan in California will want to ask an estate planning attorney for help in choosing wording that can help prevent interpretation errors.

Source:, "Doctors are confused by living wills, study finds", Stacey Burling, Accessed on Feb. 16, 2017

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