A jury in Palm Beach County has decided that a nursing home must pay $150,000 in damages to a woman’s family after they did not follow her living will and advance directive. The 92-year-old woman had stated that she did not want to be kept alive by artificial means. Workers at Morse Geriatric called paramedics and had her taken to the hosptial where she died six days later after having many procedures performed on her.
The verdict was lauded by bioethicists, who say the availability of medical technology doesn’t always impose a moral duty to use it. And though the impact of the verdict likely won’t stretch outside Florida, it’s still a precedent that might be taken into account in future cases, according to Dr. Kenneth Goodman, director of the University of Miami’s bioethics program and the Florida Bioethics Network.
“We’ve been watching this case closely,” Goodman said. “This is a big deal. It’s a reaffirmation that no means no. There are a lot of institutions and a lot of health-care professionals who have acquired the belief that you reduce liability overtreating patients. This case shows that’s a bad strategy. The whole point is that advance directives survive your inability to utter them.”
The jury did not find the center’s former medical director to be at fault though. The patient’s granddaughter filed the case in order to make other nursing home’s more aware of their patients’ living wills.