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Are doctors bound follow advance medical directives?

Creating an estate plan means anticipating many contingencies and having safeguards in place. Those who have children may have to consider the need for guardianship. Those who own Colorado businesses may include succession planning in their estate plans. Important elements of all estate plans are advance medical directives. These state one's wishes for medical treatment if the person becomes unable to express those wishes.

When creating an advance care directive, the principal may have concerns about whether his or her wishes will be honored. The agent appointed has an ethical duty to comply with those wishes; however, the law does not compel a doctor to offer or withhold any treatment that violates his or her conscience. In fact, the advance medical directive is more to provide legal protection for physicians when a patient does not want care that may sustain his or her life.

A doctor may refuse to comply with directives that contradict the doctor's conscience or the policies of the medical facility. However, any health care provider who refuses to comply with a legal advance medical directive must assist the principal's agent in transferring the principal to a facility that would be willing to carry out the wishes expressed in the advance care directive. Refusing to do so may lead to a lawsuit.

With an advance directive in place, many find peace of mind. However, in order to ensure that their wishes are communicated as clearly and thoroughly as possible, it is advisable to have a meaningful conversation with loved ones about those wishes. It is also critical to have legal counsel when completing advance medical directives. An attorney will be able to advise someone in this position about the ethical boundaries such a directive may not cross and the laws of Colorado to which doctors may be bound.

Source:, "Health Care Directives: Is there a Duty to Follow Them?", Accessed on April 23, 2018

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