Bioethics Blogs

Supreme Court of California Allows Strong Rebuke of Government Interference with Advance Directives

Dick Magney

At the end of January 2017, the Supreme Court of California refused a request from Humboldt County to “depublish” a Court of Appeal opinion excoriating the County for unjustifiably interfering with a patient’s advance directive (No. S239048).

On the basis of an “appallingly inadequate evidentiary showing” of caregiver neglect Humboldt County misled a trial court and got a trial court to grant its petition to override Dick Magney’s advance directive and remove his wife as healthcare agent. For weeks, the County directed treatment that Magney never wanted.  (More at North Coast Journal)

In a lengthy published opinion, the Court of Appeal chastised the County for losing “sight of the fact that the Health Care Decisions Law does not provide a forum to debate the wisdom of a particular individual’s health care choices.” Absent a showing an advance directive is invalid or terminated, its instructions “are controlling.”

For more on “unwanted medical treatment,” see my “Legal Briefing: New Penalties for Disregarding Advance Directives and DNR Orders” coming soon in 28(1) Journal of Clinical Ethics.  And see my comprehensive review here.    

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.