Doctor saving a patient's life against their wishes

I recently saw a book in which a doctor saves a woman who had attempted suicide. This goes against her living will. The book is Do No Harm by Fiorella de Maria. It is set in Britian. The book looks really interesting and is written from a Catholic perspective.

amazon.com/Do-No-Harm-Fiorella-Maria/dp/1586177249/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1466786988&sr=8-1&keywords=do+no+harm+fiorella

I was wondering if the rules about living wills applied to people who were suicidal. Could a doctor in Britain really get in trouble for saving someone who tried to kill herself, regardless of what her living will said.

The author said it’s possible for doctors to be prosecuted for going against a living will. I thought patients had to be terminally ill in that case. Please let me know if I’m incorrect. This is a subject I don’t know much about.

I will probably read this book b/c it looks really good.

Not sure about the laws in Britain, but in the US, yes a doctor could be disciplined for not following a patients advanced care directive.

What might happen could be anything from a simple warning to a loss of medical license.

Basically, it is denying a patient their rights.

I may not agree with what they choose, but, if they are adults who are competent (there could be some argument there, as would a mentally competent person choose suicide? But that is another thread.) So, as long as the person has a right to make their own health decisions, as much as I might not agree, it is their right.

Now, the doctor also has a choice. They can choose to no longer treat said patient. Again, laws & mileage may vary depending on where you are, but I would not want a doctor who is not on the same page as me when it comes to treatment options, even when that treatment is no treatment.

Under Indian law, a “living will” can be overruled if there is a risk of death; however, there is legislation currently being considered by Parliament which might initiate a change in this stance. I hope it doesn’t. :frowning:

Why should the living will be overruled if there is a risk of death? If a person has determined that they don’t want certain medical interventions in the event they are injured or deathly ill in advance made of sound mind, who are the doctors or the government to interfere with those wishes? I see that as a gross violation of the patient’s rights.

Generally living wills are meant to provide for circumstances in which the patient does not have a reasonable chance of survival. It’s not simply that a patient may die. A first responder will not necessarily have this information when providing care.
Living wills generally state no extra-ordinary efforts are to be used to insure survival.
A terminally ill patient may specifically have “do not resuscitate” orders.

That is quite different from saving the life of someone who made a suicide attempt (the OP’s post), in which case the conditions you specify do not apply. No one has the “right” to end one’s life, and suicide is a mortal sin in Catholic teaching. Saving such a person’s life gives them a chance (however great or small) to repent.

In the case you describe (a person who does not want “heroic” interventions to prolong his life when terminally ill), the Church does authorize the right to refuse such treatment (as far as I know), though she does not allow physician-assisted suicide either actively or passively. In such a case, and under such circumstances, I would agree with you, but we have to be extremely cautious in applying such rules. Otherwise, we end up with a travesty like the case of Terri Schiavo (yes, I know there wasn’t a living will in that case, but in the end, it was her husband’s “living will” which carried the day… :()

thanks for all your input. I did some checking and the book can be requested through my library so I should get a copy relatively soon.

In this book, a young woman shows up at the ER unconscious from a suicide attempt via a multiple drug overdose. Her friend is with her who presents the doctor with a living will stating she did not want treatment. The suicidal woman is diabetic, which complicates things, but she’s not terminally ill.

The doctor treats the patient anyway b/c he’s Catholic and he values life and then he is charged and becomes the source of a huge controversy. It’s not clear to me whether the suicidal character ever regains consciousness, or if she remains comatose due to the damage she did to herself. The doctor faces a trial and the outcome is uncertain.

Legally, perhaps.

Ethically, I don’t think I have any more obligation to allow it than I do to not to allow someone to go splat on the ground when they attempt to jump to their death. Hypothetically, if I could break their fall, I should.

If I see someone attempting to load a Beretta in an attempt to blow their head off, the notion that I must allow them to fulfill their own wishes I nonsense, ethically.

Again, what they can do legally is another matter, but moral oboligations and legal ones are vastly different at times.

I would agree with most of what you write here.
However, I took the OP’s question to be one of legality, not morality.

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