What are the consequences of disregarding a "do not resuscitate directive" in the United States?

Med Law. 2013 Dec;32(4):441-58.


Does a valid cause of action exist against a health care provider who intentionally disregards a "do-not resuscitate order," prolonging a patient's life? Wrongful prolongation of life has not gained traction in the United States. Although the issue has garnered media attention and has raised awareness of advanced directives, physicians still may disregard a patient's last wishes for fear of legal reprisal or due to lack of communication. This article examines key cases and explains the differences between living wills, advanced directives and proxies. Claims have been advanced under theories of battery, Constitutional violations, breach of contract, infliction of emotional distress, and negligence, but no cause of action has allowed monetary damages. Courts maintain that it is not their place to judge an impaired life as being less valuable than no life. A state-by-state analysis of legislation concerning advanced directives follows along with a discussion of the Patient Self-Determination Act.

Publication types

  • Legal Case

MeSH terms

  • Advance Directive Adherence / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Resuscitation Orders / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Right to Die / legislation & jurisprudence
  • United States