Am I legally required to call 911 if my mother becomes injured?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 23, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My 94 yr old mother has diabetes, CHF, and Renal failure, hearing loss and severe peripheral neuropathy of her hands. (She has nearly lost the use of them) She insists on living alone in her own home, will not allow anyone to come into her home to assist her except her children on weekends. She has told us that we are not to call 911 if she falls or requires hospitalization. She does not want to go to a hospital. She has a medic alert system. Are we (her children) legally required to call 911?

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

As long as your mother is mentally competent, she is allowed to make her own decisions about appropriate medical care. You should not invoke liability for not calling 911 for your mother"”especially if her wishes are well and widely documented.

Many people are opposed to the extreme procedures that emergency personnel are required to perform if called. In most places, for example, those responding to 911 calls must provide CPR and all other processes that might be deemed "life-prolonging."

As it sounds as if your mother want to avoid this very thing, encourage her to fill out a "Do Not Resuscitate" form that she should be able to get from any doctor that attends her. While such documents may be powerful evidence of wishes, be aware that 911 responders are not always required to abide by them"”and in some cases, must proceed with emergency procedures.

You will also want to be sure how her medic alert system works: some merely call 911 directly, while others make calls first to designated family members of friends.