Wrongful Prolongation of Life in New Jersey
January 24, 2018
BY: Domhnall O'Cathain
The hospital staff didn’t want him to go. They honestly thought that he really didn’t want to let go himself. After all, he had spent the last month telling them about the little grandkids. The staff could see the love— a hospital room with flowers and get well cards.
But he had a different idea. He had lived 85 years, 50 of them with his late wife. And now he was very sick. He signed the directives – DNR and DNI. Don’t try to save me if I stop breathing.
It broke the children’s hearts. The grandkids could not know. And it went against the instincts of the hospital’s staff.
But he did stop breathing. And what did they do? The staff stepped in and saved him from death, through resuscitation and intubation.
He lived a few more weeks, unable to communicate and in pain.
This is exactly what he didn’t want.
A year later, the family met with a lawyer and filed a lawsuit against the hospital: wrongful prolongation of life.
A Wrongful Prolongation of Life Case in New Jersey
A similar case came before the New Jersey courts recently. The hospital tried to dismiss the case but Judge W. Hunt Dumont ruled that an elderly lady who was kept alive against her instructions had lived six extra months in a diminished condition. (Koener v. AHS Hospital).
Like many areas of personal injury law and medical malpractice, lawsuits for wrongful prolongation of life can bring up some very raw emotions. How can we expect medical professionals to not save lives? Isn’t there always a chance of getting better? Shouldn’t we live every day we are given? But shouldn’t the patient be able to decide what he/she does or does not want? My last hours in this world are my most precious, I don’t want to be in pain.
The law regarding wrongful prolongation of life in New Jersey is still at an early stage.
Families are reluctant to file lawsuits because of being judged that they didn’t want loved ones to live longer. However, the issues go beyond what other people think. For example, shouldn’t patients be permitted to make decisions about their own medical care and about the quality of life as their time here comes to an end.
If you believe that a medical facility failed to follow the end of life instructions of a loved one, you should consult our medical malpractice attorneys in New Jersey.