The New York Times turned to Professor Thaddeus Mason Pope, director of Mitchell Hamline’s Health Law Institute, in its recent reporting on end-of-life issues. The story “The Patients Were Saved. That’s Why the Families Are Suing.” appeared in the newspaper’s April 10 edition.
Pope is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on medical decision-making and end-of-life patient rights. The Times took note of a trend Pope has written about in The Journal of Clinical Ethics—doctors and hospitals are increasingly facing penalties and lawsuits for ignoring patients’ advance directives and do-not-resuscitate orders.
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.
Pope told the New York Times that courts are beginning to pay closer attention to end-of-life decisions.
Courts increasingly accept that unwanted life is also a harm. Families were showing up at plaintiffs’ attorneys offices in the past and getting turned away. Now, plaintiffs’ attorneys are taking these cases.
Professor Pope writes about end-of-life issues on his Medical Futility Blog.