Bioethics Blogs

Advance Directive – Multiple Choice Question

The Florida Bar included this question on its examination for attorneys seeking certification in health law.

Patient executes a valid living will in the form suggested under Florida state law. Patient designates her oldest son, Steve, as her surrogate to carry out the provisions of her living will. In her living will she directs that life prolonging procedures be withheld and that she be permitted to die naturally with only the administration of medication or the performance of any medical procedure deemed necessary to provide comfort care or alleviate pain. 

Patient is terminally ill and lacks the capacity to make her own health care decision. Physicians recommend that for hydration and sustenance a naso-gastric tube (“tube”) be inserted since they estimate she has 3 more months left to live. Ben, patient‟s youngest son, authorizes the insertion of the tube. However, Steve does not want the tube inserted. 

Florida law requires the hospital to: 

  1. Not insert the tube and let the patient die without hydration and sustenance. 
  2. Insert tube since it is not a life prolonging procedure. 
  3. Wait at least 7 days before making a decision. 
  4. Convince Steve to authorize the insertion of the tube.
The answer is #1.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.