“THE UNFORGETTABLE DEATH OF MY FORGOTTEN PATIENT”

The following is a summary of an article entitled “The Unforgettable Death of My Forgotten Patient”, published in the Wall Street Journal in August 2015.

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In this article published in the Wall Street Journal in August 2015, a Milwaukee physician shares his story about a patient and the circumstances surrounding her medical treatment- circumstances that could have easily been prevented with a healthcare directive.

Ms. M arrived at the hospital with a large mass in her abdomen, causing her severe pain. In order to determine Ms. M’s options, doctors needed to be able to perform a biopsy on the mass. However, Ms. M had been deemed “non-decisional”-meaning she was no longer capable of making medical treatment decisions on her own behalf.

Without any known relatives or friends to provide consent, doctors were unable to perform any medical procedure considered “invasive”. In these cases, the next possible option is to obtain legal guardianship of the patient, which is typically a complicated process that can take months. And in most cases, once the patient is considered “non-decisional”, they don’t have months left to wait to obtain a guardian.

In the case of Ms. M, her situation might have been different if she had someone advocating in her best interest. Without an advance directive regarding the medical wishes of a patient, the doctors’ hands are tied when it comes to performing invasive procedures that could potentially save their patient’s life. Declaring a medical power of attorney can help prevent such an event from occurring. At Flint, Connolly and Walker, we can assist you with estate planning so that you are prepared for the future.

Douglas H. Flint is senior partner in the law firm of Flint, Connolly & Walker, LLP in Canton, Georgia, where he represents and assists both businesses and individuals with their legal matters.