There are some things you need to know “just in case” you end up incapacitated in a hospital.

  1. Without legal paperwork, and in a health emergency situation, emergency personnel must do everything possible to attempt to revive you.
  2. Select one or two trustworthy individuals to act as Power of Attorney in the event that you are unable to make decisions. Make sure that they will decide as you would and that they are not intimidated by authority. See a lawyer for this - it’s not a do-it-yourself project.
  3. Most Patients’ Rights “Bills” are not actually laws. Thus, your “Directive” may not be followed.
  4. Physicians must have informed consent before doing any procedures. Consent is inferred in certain emergency situations (to attempt to save your life or prevent further injury.
  5. Never agree to a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order in writing beforehand. DNR does not mean what you think it means. “Extraordinary Life-Sustaining Treatment” Definition: Extraordinary medical procedures to temporarily replace or supplement failing and essential bodily functions.” Be sure you understand that an IV for hydration and a feeding tube for nutrition can be “extraordinary life-sustaining treatment”. If you have signed a document that states that you do not want to be kept alive by “extraordinary measures”, and you have a mild stroke and are unable to swallow, a doctor is legally protected if he or she decides to dehydrate and starve you to death - even if you would likely recover with treatment, would have years to live, and would be able to eat and drink again.
  6. In the US, your state protections are preempted by a US Supreme Court decision in 2006 (see **NOTE link below for US Legal Law Digest)
  7. You have the right to leave a hospital or care facility, or to be removed from one by your POA, except in certain circumstances, such as mental incapacity, or being a danger to yourself or others. (see *NOTE/link regarding Canada)
  8. If your country, state or province has a Patients’ Rights Law, read it. Today. Find out what your rights are, before you are in a hospital.
  9. Remember, when you sign a POA, it’s a life-and-death matter. Choose well.
  10. If you don’t sign anything, the medical professionals can’t legally kill you.


*NOTE: In Canada, people have been kept against their will when “exceptional circumstances” have been distorted by medical or care facility personnel. In several instances, patients have been forced to stay in hospitals and care facilities, and their families have been barred from entering the facility. See “Seniors at Risk” website:

Duhaime’s Law Dictionary Extraordinary Life-Sustaining Treatment Definition:

What Are the Types of Powers of Attorney and the Differences? 1. Non-Durable Power of Attorney 2. Durable Power of Attorney 3. Special or Limited Power of Attorney 4. Medical Power of Attorney 5. Springing Power of Attorney

The following link, while dated from 2002, is a starting point. It gives a comprehensive, detailed overview of six countries: Canada (the most extensive analysis), USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Norway.

If you are a Canadian or Permanent Resident in Canada, your rights are protected by laws such as the Health Care Consent Act, the Long-Term Care Act and the Mental Health Act. However, keep in mind that Canada has legalized euthanasia, which is now a medical “treatment”.

Patient Rights (from Medicine Plus) October 3, 2013

American Cancer Society - overview of various Patients’ Rights Papers Patients’ Rights

HG Legal Resource: Informed Consent Law

**NOTE: Important Information from the :US Legal Law Digest

** “ of January 2006, a divided and partisan U.S. Congress was still grappling with various provisions for a federal Patients' Rights Law, and none appeared likely in the foreseeable future. Part of the delay was due to the 2004 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Aetna v. Davila, which severely limited patients' rights to sue their HMOs in state courts. (The Court held that the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act [ERISA] preempted state laws in this area.) The decision impacted and invalidated provisions in at least ten state patients' rights laws.” (emphasis theirs).

Notwithstanding, all states have enacted some form of health care law addressing "patient rights." The problem remains that there is no uniformity of laws, and the scope of rights afforded patients varies greatly from state to state.

American Hospital Association: Patient Care Partnership (no mention of Patient Rights) AHA’s Patient Bill of Rights (1973, revised 1992, replaced in 2001 by the vague language of the Patient Care Partnership).

eMedicineHealth website: Advance Directives

North Carolina Patients Rights

Consumer Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, adopted by the US Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry in 1998

The Philippines has a Patients Rights Act - but USA does not.