New York Times, April 10, 2017
Paula Span


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[...] Physicians and hospitals have grown accustomed to the threat of lawsuits when they fail to save a patient’s life. Now, some face legal action for failing to let a patient die.

Several similar lawsuits around the country say that health care providers disregarded or overrode advance directives, resuscitating people whose instructions clearly said not to.

Historically, the practice has been “if in doubt, err on the side of aggressive, life-sustaining treatment,” said Thaddeus Pope, who directs the Health Law Institute at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minn.

After all, resuscitated patients in intensive care can later be disconnected from ventilators, he pointed out, but “you can’t reverse death.” Courts have seemed unreceptive to what might be labeled wrongful-life cases.

Dr. Pope sees that changing, however, and has compiled several recent examples in the latest Journal of Clinical Ethics.

“Courts increasingly accept that unwanted life is also a harm,” he said. “Families were showing up at plaintiffs’ attorneys offices in the past and getting turned away. Now, plaintiffs’ attorneys are taking these cases.” [...]

bioethics doctor-patient relationship end-of-life health law policy judicial opinions public health