Many California residents have found themselves in urgent medical situations where they are unable to speak for themselves due to some type of incapacitation. If a patient in such circumstances has executed estate planning documents that include health care directives, doctors will refer to such plans to determine how to proceed in a life-or-death situation. If the patient has appointed another party or parties to make health-related decisions on his or her behalf, then medical professionals are obligated to adhere to such instructions.

Having a set health care directive plan is not a 100 percent guarantee that doctors will comply with one’s wishes. There are certain circumstances that would allow a doctor to deviate from a directive. If acting in accordance with directives would violate standards of care at a particular institution or would compromise a physician’s good conscience in some way, he or she may go against signed instructions.

Some situations are far more complex than others. For instance, if a pregnant woman is in dire need of medical attention, a doctor may not necessarily have to comply with written health care directives unless those instructions include specifications for pregnancy. Generally speaking, however, medical professionals have a duty to act according to the recorded instructions of a patient who is incapacitated and facing a life-threatening situation.

Health care directives are not the only crucial component of a thorough estate planning process. Many other matters can be addressed as well, such as appointment of legal guardians for children or naming a power of attorney. To explore all available options, as well as clarify estate planning laws in California, a person can request a consultation with an experienced estate administration attorney.

Source: FindLaw, “Health Care Directives: Is there a Duty to Follow Them?“, Accessed on March 23, 2017