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Doctors Hospital of Augusta v. Alicea

Supreme Court of Georgia
788 S.E.2d 392 (2016)


Facts

Bucilla Stephenson executed an advance directive designating her daughter, Jacqueline Alicea (plaintiff) as her healthcare agent. The directive gave Alicea power to make healthcare decisions for Stephenson, in accordance with Stephenson’s wishes. Stephenson specifically told Alicea that she did not want to rely on a machine to live, including a ventilator for breathing. Several years later, Stephenson was admitted to Doctors Hospital of Augusta (hospital) (defendant). Exams showed that Stephenson was suffering from a number of severe ailments. Alicea gave the hospital Stephenson’s advance directive. Alicea also gave the hospital her contact information. One day, a doctor, who had not read the advance directive, called Alicea and requested her consent for a procedure the doctor wanted to perform on Stephenson. The doctor did not tell Alicea that the procedure would require intubation and the use of a ventilator. Alicea agreed to the procedure, not knowing that a ventilator would be used. The procedure was performed. Two days later, Stephenson was experiencing respiratory issues, and the doctor again ordered the use of a ventilator. Alicea was not contacted. Alicea’s husband stopped by the hospital and saw Stephenson on the ventilator. The husband called Alicea, who arrived at the hospital and informed the doctor that he had acted against Stephenson’s advance directive. The doctor told Alicea that he could either take Stephenson off of the ventilator, in which case she would suffocate and die, or perform another surgery to help Stephenson. Alicea consented to the procedure, as well as other procedures recommended by the hospital staff. When Stephenson’s health continued to fail, Alecia authorized the removal of the ventilator. Stephenson died three days later. Alecia filed a complaint against the hospital, alleging that hospital staff had subjected Stephenson to unnecessary medical procedures in violation of her advance directive and the directions of Alecia. The hospital contended that it was immune from liability under state law. The case eventually made its way to the state supreme court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Nahmias, J.)

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