Bioethics Blogs

No Immunity for Providers Who Treated Patient Contrary to Her Advance Directive

In March 2012, clinicians at Doctors Hospital of

Augusta intubated terminally ill 91-year-old Bucilla Stephenson and placed her own mechanical ventilation.  This was contrary to Stephenson’s advance directive and contrary to the specific directions of her designated healthcare agent (her granddaughter).  


In May 2013, Stephenson’s agent filed a lawsuit alleging that the defendant clinicians caused her grandmother “pain, suffering, and emotional distress by subjecting her to unnecessary procedures.”  The agent seeks both compensatory and punitive damages.  She asserts claims for (1) breach of contract, (2) informed consent, (3) ordinary negligence, (4) battery, (5) IIED, and (6) breach of fiduciary duty.

A few days ago, the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s denial of summary judgment to the defendants, because genuine issues of material fact exist regarding whether defendants made a good faith effort to rely on the agent’s directions (and were thus entitled to statutory immunity).  

The court also affirmed the trial court’s denial of summary judgment on the battery claim.  But it reversed the denial of summary judgment on the informed consent claim, because there was no evidence of injury caused by this breach.

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.