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The Lawrence Firm Blog

Misinterpretation of living wills and medical malpractice

Imagine a loved one taking time to execute a thorough estate plan that includes specific advanced directives for urgent medical care in life or death situations. Imagine further the devastation that would ensue if a Kentucky doctor were negligent and acted contrary to those instructions. This type of error could result in a terrible medical malpractice situation that, in worst case scenario, might prove fatal to a patient.

A recent study was conducted with nearly 750 emergency room physicians. Various living wills were presented to participants. Some included accompanying videos of patients verbally providing their wishes regarding emergency care in situations where they might be incapable of speaking on their own behalves.

Shocking to those conducting the study was the fact that a 95 percent agreement (between doctor participants) as to how to interpret the documents presented was achieved in only two of the cases. One doctor admitted that, some years back, he almost acted in such a way that would likely have killed his patient. Another physician nearby at the time quickly corrected the error and the patient was saved.

There is an accepted standard of care in emergency room situations and all provisions of medical care throughout the nation. If a doctor is negligent and does not act within those standards when interpreting advanced directives or otherwise treating a patient in a life or death situation, the result can be devastating. Any Kentucky resident who believes medical malpractice was the cause of an immediate family member’s death may seek justice on that person’s behalf by seeking monetary judgment against any and all parties deemed negligent.

Source:, “Doctors are confused by living wills, study finds“, Stacey Burling, Accessed on Feb. 16, 2017


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