When establishing advance healthcare directives, which are statements of your wishes in the event that you develop certain medical conditions, the goal is for your doctors and/or healthcare providers to follow those wishes. However, there are circumstances where a doctor may or must act in a manner that is contrary to your advance healthcare directives.
Pregnancy & Advance Healthcare Directives
One common scenario in which a doctor might disregard your advance healthcare directives is pregnancy. While a doctor’s actions in this situation may differ according to your medical condition, the stage of your pregnancy, the risk to you and the fetus, as well as any applicable laws, pregnancy, particularly in its later stages, can lead doctors to disregard your advance healthcare directives in an effort to keep both you and the fetus alive.
State Statutes on Directives & Pregnancy
In a fair number of states, such as California and Illinois, advance healthcare directives are simply invalid if you are pregnant. In these states, doctors are required to disregard any advance healthcare directives that you may have executed if you are pregnant. Under these circumstances, then, doctors will take all measures designed to save both your life and the fetus. It is important to familiarize yourself with the laws of your state regarding this issue if you potentially could become pregnant. Since the laws for the execution and enforcement of advance healthcare directives can vary widely from state to state, you should be sure to contact an attorney experienced in this area of the law so that you will know what to expect if you find yourself in this situation.
Likewise, individual doctors and/or healthcare facilities may differ in terms of their policies on advance healthcare directives in general. Upon your admission to any health care facility, you must be informed of their policies on advanced healthcare directives. However, in some cases, such as where a hospital that is affiliated with a certain religion, there may be restrictive policies that will prevent your advance healthcare directives from being followed. Therefore, regardless of your state’s laws on this issue, the policies of some health care facilities may prevent your doctor from honoring your advance healthcare directives if you are pregnant.
Take Necessary Steps
As a result of the likelihood that your advance healthcare directives could be ignored or completely disregarded in the event of your pregnancy, you should be sure to include a statement of your specific wishes with regard to pregnancy in your advance healthcare directives, if pregnancy is a possibility for you. Taking these steps will ensure that your healthcare providers are aware of and can abide by your wishes regarding your medical care, if the situation permits. However, if your advance healthcare directives become effective while you are in your second or third trimester of pregnancy, it is likely that the doctors and/or healthcare facility treating you will take all steps to preserve your life, as well as that of your fetus, even if such treatment involves the total disregard of your advance healthcare directives.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.