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Medical malpractice in the form of wrongful life

Doctors and other medical care professionals in New Jersey and across the country are often dedicated to ensuring that their patients receive the best possible medical care. However, the desire to save lives can sometimes override the desires of the patient and his or her family members in the form of failing to abide by instructions provided by advanced directives. As a result, more people are seeking justice in a civil court, claiming that wrongful life is a form of medical malpractice.

People are often urged to put their wishes in regard to medical treatment in writing so that they are clear and understandable. However, there are several court cases now going through the process, claiming that doctors resuscitated a patient in clear violation of their wishes. While, in the past, the general philosophy was to err on the side of saving a life as ventilators, for example, can be disconnected, courts are becoming more receptive to so-called cases of "wrongful life."

Not only does providing life-saving measures to a person who has expressed his or her wishes against them potentially extend their pain and suffering, doing so can also create significant medical expenses for surviving family members. In the past, medical professionals have been able to argue that the fault lies in the patient or the patient's agent, claiming that their instructions were vague or unclear. However, several recent lawsuits alleged that the instructions that were provided were without ambiguity, but staff still failed to honor them.

One out-of-state case is already having ramifications for other families and patients who allege that doctors provided unwanted life-saving measures. The court ruled that decisions made by medical professionals should be controlled by the patient or his or her agent, not the doctors. Unfortunately, there may be few paths to recourse for those who have experienced such a situation, prompting many in New Jersey to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. By such action, victims --including surviving family members -- could not only receive an award to help cope with medical expenses but could also ensure that facilities receive the necessary training to prevent future incidents.

Source:, "The patients were saved. That's why their families are suing", Paula Span, April 10, 2017

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