Hospital Not Immune for Making Decisions for Patient and Failing to Comply with Surrogates' Wishes

December 15, 2021 | Strategic Insights for Health System


A patient who was experiencing insomnia, hallucinations, and disorientation was admitted to a hospital. Believing that the medications the hospital was giving their son were causing his symptoms, the patient's parents—who had power of attorney—tried to stop the hospital from giving him medications and sought to remove him from the hospital. Because the hospital believed that the parents were not making decisions in the patient's best interests, the hospital began making healthcare decisions for the patient. In a lawsuit the patient brought against the hospital, the Supreme Court of Alaska has held that the hospital was not immune under the state Health Care Decisions Act (HCDA) for declining to follow the parents' instructions, failing to transfer the patient, and appointing itself the patient's surrogate.

Previously, when the patient was about 20 years old, he had executed a durable power of attorney for healthcare giving his parents authority to make medical decisions on his behalf in case he became incompetent or incapacitated. The insomnia began when the patient was 26 years old, while he was guiding a hunt. He had been using prednisone to treat nasal polyps, and he believed the prednisone was causing the insomnia. When he returned from the hunt, he continued...

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