Can ER doctors make life choices for me?

1 answer | Last updated: Nov 09, 2016
Tazmary1 asked...

I'm 57 years old and recently became critically ill, brought to the ER, and underwent several procedures that I always thought needed a family member or designee to agree or approve, like dyalsis, heart catheter, etc. Apparently the ER doctors went ahead and did these things to me since I was not awake and none of my family or friends were available. I guess my question is: Is this standard procedure to just go ahead or is there an Ethics Board or something similar to do the deciding? Thank you for your responses.


Expert Answers

Carolyn Rosenblatt, R.N. and Attorney is the author of author of The Boomer's Guide to Aging Parents. She has over 40 years of combined experience in her two professions. As a nurse, she has extensive experience with geriatrics, chronic illness, pain management, dementias, disability, family dynamics, and death and dying. As a trial attorney, she advocated for for the rights of injured individuals and neglected elders. She is also co-founder of AgingParents.com.

From Carolyn Rosenblatt, R.N., B.S.N., Attorney When you arrive at the emergency room unconscious, and there is no one to give consent to a procedure, the doctors must do what they can to save your life. It is presumed, legally, that you would want what is best for you if you were able to give consent. When you can't the doctor uses his or her own judgment in place of yours, to treat your emergency condition. Even if an ethics committee exists, there is no time to have a committee meeting when there is a pending emergency condition. It is legally appropriate and ethical for the doctor to do what is thought to be safest for you. If you have a healthcare directive (also called "power of attorney for health care or medical", your own doctor should have a copy. However, even with that, your own doctor may not be the one who first sees you in the emergency room.